Re-Imagining America, Re-Creating Ourselves

By Grace Lee Boggs

Michigan Citizen, Jan. 31- Feb. 6, 2010

As we move towards the 2nd USSF that will bring 15,000-20,000 people to Detroit in June, new visitors to the Boggs Center are giving me a deeper understanding of the energies stirring in our country at this very special time on the clock of the world.

For example, on a recent snowy afternoon, we enjoyed a conversation with Dan Wang and Mike Wolf, two artists from the Midwest Radical Cultural Corridor (MRCC), Dan was born and raised in Saginaw, Michigan, and now lives in Minneapolis. Mike is from the Chicago area.

Before our conversation I had viewed maps mainly as aids to get drivers from one place to another. Dan and Mike gave me a sense of how maps created by artists not only expand our knowledge and imaginations but can also help us arrive at life-changing decisions.

MRCC maps provide a picture of the many cultures in the Midwest. They tell us how people live in cities and rural areas, the availability of land, fuel, water; whether they are able to grow their own food or have to import it from long distances (consuming tons of fuel and requiring, often carcinogenic, preservatives and additives); how they dispose of waste, how they educate and entertain themselves, what historic struggles and events they remember and tell each other stories about.

MRCC artists are cultural creatives who recognize that our world and especially the United States are in the middle of a huge cultural revolution. So their maps provide all kinds of information about city life and rural life, about who lives where and when, about gentrification and struggles against gentrification, development and struggles against it, industrialization and de-industrialization, current and increasingly urgent challenges to create the world anew.

I was especially impressed with the information these maps provide about Native American communities because MRCC mapmakers recognize that in this period we have so much to learn from indigenous peoples about the need to think ahead seven generations when we make everyday decisions.

Talking with Dan and Mike, I also got a sense of the huge changes that have taken place in the world and in young people since I became a radical nearly 70 years ago.

When I moved from New York to Detroit in the middle of the 20th century, most radicals, myself included, thought mainly in terms of Race and Class, Blacks and Whites, Workers and Capitalists, I had no idea that one day I would find myself growing older in a country where whites are the minority and people of color from Latin America, Asia and Africa are the New Majority.

I never dreamed that Detroit, once the national and international symbol of the miracles of industrialization, would become the world symbol of the devastation of deindustrialization. Or that, as a result of the new information technology, only one in ten workers actually works in manufacturing and the number of workers outside factory walls exceeds those inside.

It never occurred to me that eventually my identity would be shaped not mainly by my ethnicity, class or gender but by how I responded to the challenge to rebuild, redefine and respirit Detroit from the ground up.

I never suspected that the day was coming when people the world over would view the American way of life as mainly responsible for the global warming that threatens all living things on Planet Earth.

Or that a new generation of young Americans, coming out of obscurity and with a decent respect for the opinions of mankind, would assume leadership for encouraging all Americans to live more simply so that there will be a future for all of us and our posterity.

MRCC maps help these millennials decide where to settle and begin rebuilding and revitalizing this country from the ground up.