It is only in relationship to other bodies and many somebodies that anybody’s somebody.
James Boggs (1919-1993) a political activist and author of
The American Revolution: Pages from a Negro Worker’s Notebook
This is a quote by James Boggs. He and his wife Grace Lee Boggs were the center of the Boggs Center in Detroit, Michigan and their work over the years has been a source of inspiration for me. They’ve been part of the Black Power Movement in Detroit and, specifically, looking at how African Americans not only can contest for power but can start building power and building the kind of society that they want. James, himself, came from Alabama, one of the African Americans who migrated from the South to the North to get jobs but also to escape the white supremacist terrorism of Jim Crow. He worked in the automobile industry for many years and was a self-taught thinker. Even though he did not go to college, he’s just somebody who’s enormously curious about the world and so spent a lot of time reading and a lot of time in discussion. I love that he put things as directly as he did. I think our culture has gotten so hung up on individualism that it’s lost track of how important relationships are to who we are and relationships with other actual human beings, not social media. Many think that social media is like being in relationship but it’s like what junk food is to really nourishing food. It gives the illusion of being connected but not the empathy, not the understanding, not the soul nourishment. So, I love that he talks about relationships in this quote and I love that he also acknowledges that that’s how we become who we can be. I think there’s an illusion that somehow if we go off in a cave by our self and meditate enough that we can transcend. But I think we really have to be in relationship and that’s where we learn and that’s where we struggle. Sometimes it’s really hard because we get our egos bruised but that’s where we can bounce back and learn and become what we’re capable of being.
Sarah Van Gelder, Co-founder of Yes Magazine
and the author of The Revolution Where You Live:
Stories from a 12,000-Mile Journey Through a New America