Art and Activism


What Happened in New Orleans: Reflections on the National Convergence of Artists, Educators and Organizers

by Andrea Assaf

In “What Happened in New Orleans? Reflections on the National Convergence of Artists, Educators and Organizers,” Animating Democracy staff member Andrea Assaf reflects on her experience at the National Convergence of Artists, Educators, and Activists. Inspired by Grace Lee Boggs and conversations on art and social change at the Animating Democracy National Exchange on Art & Civic Dialogue, the National Convergence attracted more than 200 people to New Orleans inJanuary 2004. In her article, Assaf reflects on the impetus, unfolding, and impacts of this convening.

These Are The Times That Grow Our Souls [PDF]

by Grace Lee Boggs

In October 2003, Detroit-based activist, cultural worker, and octogenarian Grace Lee Boggs energized and inspired a national gathering of artists, arts organization and community leaders, and activists with her speech at Animating Democracy's National Exchange on Art & Civic Dialogue. Boggs described a United States that is increasingly jobless; that jeopardizes its youth in a problem-wrought education system; and that is resented for its economic, military, and cultural domination. "Can we create a new paradigm of our selfhood and our nationhood?" she implored. In Boggs' subsequent essay, "These are the times that grow our souls," (commissioned by Animating Democracy), she expands on ideas seeded at that gathering. Stressing the need for tremendous philosophical and spiritual transformation to effect social justice and change, she advocates a shift from politics as usual and protest alone to positive and holistic change making. Boggs recounts several movements of the last half century and promising contemporary ones that demonstrate an expanding desire to "grow our souls." Boggs recognizes artists as key paradigm shifters. She concludes with insights on how arts and culture have been transforming Detroit's decimated physical spaces, education system, and neighborhoods through Detroit Summer, a multicultural, intergenerational youth program and movement that she and her late husband, James Boggs, founded to rebuild, redefine, and respirit Detroit from the ground up.