Watch American Revolutionary

On Grace Lee's documentary about Grace Lee Boggs

Yesterday, here at the Sundance Film Festival, I met the journalist and filmmaker Grace Lee, who brought the life of movement mentor Grace Lee Boggs to us in American Revolutionary. Grace died at the age of 100, a few months after the film came out. The doc takes us through her first 98 years, marked by the deep connection this Chinese American woman had (along with her husband, Jimmy Boggs) to the movement for Black liberation and to the city Detroit.

I had the honor of sitting with Grace for a weekend when she was about 90. Being with her was like diving into a book of radical history, sociology, philosophy that also made you laugh. Her clarity about what was needed to make real change was inspiring. This bit from the film's website puts it perfectly.

As she wrestles with a Detroit in ongoing transition, contradictions of violence and non-violence, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, the 1967 rebellions, and non-linear notions of time and history, Boggs emerges with an approach that is radical in its simplicity and clarity: revolution is not an act of aggression or merely a protest. Revolution, Boggs says, is about something deeper within the human experience — the ability to transform oneself to transform the world.

When I asked Lee what motivated her to make the film, she said, "Making the documentary about her allowed me to be in her presence, and I also wanted my daughter to know about her." I want all our daughters to know about her. The film streams on Netflix and elsewhere. Watch it with the whole family!

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