What do we do NOW?

By Grace Lee Boggs

Michigan Citizen, Feb. 1-7. 2009

During the inauguration on January 20, I had the opportunity to talk on Democracy Now with Alice Walker who was covering the historic event with Amy Goodman.

I said that I was struck by the grimness of Obama's face as he walked to his seat on the podium. I felt a disconnect between that grimness and the jubilation of the millions awaiting his arrival. I also thought that his speech (in which he invoked past presidents), lacked the "Together We Can" energy of the campaign and the love, the turning to one another and the legacy of past grassroots struggles that were in, Margaret Alexander poem and Rev. Lowery's benediction. It reflected, instead, the difficulties, complexities, burdens and constraints of the Oval Office, and the reality that, as President and Commander-in-Chief, Barack Obama is now responsible not only for reviving a failed economic system but extricating us from two failed wars in the Mideast.and rescuing an obsolete school system.

And I wondered how we, the people, can bridge this disconnect.

Alice said that she was also troubled at the weight of the responsibility that Obama must be feeling, because now, after all, he is the President, and his word will have so much clout in the world. There should be some way that ordinary citizens could really show an understanding of what we are asking of this family. This is some of what has to be going through his mind as he takes on this office of President of the United States at a time when everything is falling apart. Alice Walker and Grace Lee Boggs on Democray Now!

The next day, to my delight, my questions and concerns were answered by a small group of Milwaukee community activists who caravaned to D.C.for the inauguration and stopped on their way back to spend a few hours at the Boggs Center.

From their lively accounts of the trip (including the footage shot by 13 year old Ramsey) I got a sense of the range of emotions they had gone through. There was, to begin with, the excitement as they drove east (often through blizzards), meeting and greeting (on the road and at rest stops) countless others embarked on the same journey, and finally arriving in D.C. Then the confusion and frustrations of getting around, each trying to find her/his way to and from different destinations (including porto-toilets) in the midst of more than a million equally confused and frustrated out-of-towners, also trying to find their way and their group - giving rise to anger, complaints and competition. "I've been here since 6 a.m. and you can't cut in front of me."

"But out of this chaos community began to emerge", writes Peggy Hong, one of the Milwaukee activists, on her blog, "A group was trying to get past us, and a young guy from California suggested that we open a channel for them to pass through so that we could also move, So 8 or 10 of us coached a mile of people pass our section. "Come on through, watch your step, single file, keep moving."

"This spontaneous grassroots effort guided the flow, made us active instead of passive, and helped others in need."

On the all-night drive home (again through blizzards) they discussed and reflected on the experience. Small groups like theirs (and ours), they decided, now have the opportunity and responsibility to work in our communities to help our neighbors and fellow citizens create passageways through the chaos that now exists where we live and work. All over the country there are small groups like ours. As the crisis deepens, forcing us to look to each other to survive, our local efforts can create Communities of Hope, Cities of Hope, Regions of Hope, and overall, a New America of Hope

This is what we need to do NOW..

As we talked, I was reminded of the importance of combining Activity with Reflection, as we enter a new period of movement, It was something we had not yet learned to do in the 60s.

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