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james and grace lee boggs school

Back in the early 1950’s, a Chinese-American woman named Grace Lee came to Detroit to publish an obscure newsletter for an even more obscure Marxist group led by a revolutionary from Trinidad. She met a black auto worker named James Boggs.

She had a PhD in philosophy; he had barely a high school education. She invited him to dinner. He showed up an hour late. She made lamb chops; he said he hated them. She put on a Louie Armstrong record, and he told her Satchmo was an Uncle Tom.

But later that evening, he asked her to marry him.

Boggs Center

Philosopher, activist, and writer Grace Lee Boggs has died at her home on the east side of Detroit. She was 100.

Over the past 70-plus years, she played roles in most of the major social movements this country has known: labor, civil rights, Black Power, women's rights, and environmental justice.

It’s hard to sum up the life of someone who kept changing. But that was Grace Lee Boggs. At different times in her life, she was a Marxist, a socialist, a Black Power advocate, and feminist. 

Christina Lumpkin at home with her daughter, Maya and grandson, Jahari.
Zak Rosen / Michigan Radio

Think about most of the news stories you read about kids in Detroit. What comes to mind?

Something about dysfunctional schools? Maybe a crime story?

When’s the last time you felt like a story transported you into the life of a family? Where you really got to know a child? Where you felt what it might be like to be a parent raising kids there?

All this year, producer Zak Rosen has been reporting on the first year of the James and Grace Lee Boggs School in Detroit. Whitney Walker is the office manager at school, which her daughter Zoe also attends. Whitney Walker is also a poet, and in this installment of the Boggs School series she offers a documentary poem about her transformative experience working at the school.