We are the children of Martin and Malcolm,
Black, brown, red and white,
Our birthright is to be creators of history,
Our Right, Our Duty
To shake the world with
A new dream!
At this time of mass unemployment and foreclosures, failing banks and failed states, floods, tsunamis, tornadoes, hurricanes, and global warming that threatens all life on this planet, I often find myself recalling this poem and wanting to share it. I helped to write it in the spring of 1982, nearly 30 years ago.
Three of us, one African American, one Polish American, and me, were sitting in my car following a National Organization for an American Revolution (NOAR) meeting. We were talking about and planning to participate in the June 12 March for Unilateral Disarmament in New York’s Central Park. Out of the blue one of us (I don’t remember which one) came up with the first line. The other lines then followed as naturally as water from a faucet. Our poem was published on the front page of the broadsheet that NOAR distributed at the Central Park March. A million people, about one out of every 250 Americans, participated.
Many historians believe it was the numbers and energy of these Americans that inspired Mikhail Gorbachev, the General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, to initiate glasnost and perestroika at the 27th Congress of the party in 1986, thus contributing to the collapse of the Soviet Union five years later.
As T.S. Eliot put it, “History has many cunning passages.”
I share this poem now because it seems to me that we are at a time on the clock of the world when the children of Martin and Malcolm are beginning to shake the world with a new dream.
They/we are doing it in cities all over the country by growing our own food and by bringing the neighbor back into the ‘hood to create beloved communities.’
We/they are beginning to make a life, not just a living. We are also doing it by Re-imagining and Re-defining Work, so that in the words of Matthew Fox, our Work is “an expression of the spirit at work in the world through us.”
Over the last weekend in October the Boggs Center, together with over 15 community organizations, is hosting a gathering in Detroit to re-define and re-imagine Work. Individuals and groups from all walks of life will be showcasing and discussing the many ways in which we are being challenged by our “wounded Earth, the one billion unemployed, the billions of despairing young people who see no guarantee of either work or jobs, and the needs of other species around us to, as Fox writes, “shake the world with a new dream of Work.”
Grace Lee Boggs is co-author, with her late husband James, of Revolution and Evolution in the Twentieth Century (1974). Her latest book, written with Scott Kurashige, is The Next American Revolution (2011).