Grace Lee Boggs, the 97-year-old feminist, activist, and philosopher, was born in the United Stated in 1915 to Chinese immigrant parents. Boggs earned her PhD in 1940; these credentials were no shield against discrimination based on her Chinese ancestry. When Boggs married African American activist James Boggs, over a decade before the Supreme Court of the United States invalidated laws prohibiting interracial marriage, she made the choice to add his name to her own. Their marriage would last until James Boggs’ death 40 years later.
In observing debates around the politics of naming, especially when it comes to gender, I often think of Boggs. Someone who knows little of her life and politics, or of intersectionality, might judge Boggs’ last name as an acceptance of a patriarchal naming tradition that privileges men. But is it?
The argument could also be made that by adding the last name of her black husband to her own Chinese name Boggs was putting into personal action the political solidarity between people of color traditionally pitted against one another by white supremacy. Perhaps her acceptance of the name was even a revolutionary act that flew in the face of the laws of a country that said race must determine whom you choose to love?
Or maybe, in 1953, a deeply political Chinese American woman marrying a black man simply had bigger fish to fry than worrying about her last name? Of course, these arguments are just as much speculation as the first. Still, I’d argue it is Boggs’ life-long record as a thought leader in the labor, civil rights, women’s rights, and environmental justice movements that actually defines her identity.
Boggs put into action hooks’ concept of ideas over identity long before the rest of us even started talking about it. That’s an example that could do us all some good.
This collaboration has been a minute in the works but, considering the cumulative—and sometimes contentious—conversations we have about the subject on the main website, we at the R couldn’t think of a more appropriate film to co-promote with Maysles Cinema.
A summary of The Loving Story, from the Maysles Institute’s website:
This Oscar-shortlisted film is the definitive account of the landmark 1967 Supreme Court decision that legalized interracial marriage: Loving v. Virginia. Married in Washington, D.C. on June 2, 1958, Richard Loving and Mildred Jeter returned home to Virginia where their marriage was declared illegal—he was white, and she was black and Native American. Hope Ryden’s luminous, newly discovered home movie footage of the Lovings and their feisty young lawyers and rare photography by Grey Villet are stitched together in the debut feature by Full Frame Documentary Film Festival founder Nancy Buirski in a film that takes viewers behind the scenes of a pair of unlikely civil rights pioneers and their real-life love story.
The R’s Associate Editor Andrea Plaid will moderate the post-showing discussion this Sunday, December 16. The movie starts at 7:30PM, and the chat will start about 8:45PM.
Check out the R’s main site for what the critics are saying and the chance to win two free tickets to Sunday’s showing and discussion, and check here for more info. See you Sunday!
Well-timed and well crafted in equal measures, The Loving Story is a thoughtful, terrifically intimate account of the case that dismantled this country’s anti-miscegenation laws 100 years after the abolition of slavery. The story of Virginia couple Mildred and Richard Loving’s efforts to live and love each other freely captures a critical moment in a civil rights movement whose most recent strides—for same-sex marriage—are just a few weeks old. First-time director Nancy Buirski’s focus on the constitutional tangles that brought Loving v. Virginia before the Supreme Court in 1967 also complementLincoln’s warm, wonky embrace of the democratic procedural. A wealth of archival footage gives The Loving Story an oddly modern quality.
—Michelle Orange, “The Loving Story,” 12/5/12
Maysles Cinema is pleased to be the theater to premiere Nancy Buirski’s documentary. The movie runs from now until Sunday, 12/16.
Those who will attend tomorrow’s showing will get the extra treat of talking with Buirski after the film. For more details, check here.
Arrianna: Also, the dynamic of Fitz telling Olivia that she was not his Sally Hemings was … interesting. It’ll take more thought for me to unpack that.
T.F.: Yea, it’s not really his call to make, is it? I’m also intrigued that Shonda has Olivia be the one to invoke the Hemings reference. To be honest, her throwing Sally Hemings in Fitz’s face was the first time I found their romance remotely interesting.
Anyway, I’m not sure who we’re supposed to side with in Fitz and Liv’s exchange. Having the heroine of the show raise the issue invites viewers to identify with her to some degree, but I think we’re also meant to see Fitz’s side of things as well — that he’s in this untenable position of having found the love of his life, but being unable to act on it in any honorable way, and apparently also unable to not act on it.
Which personally I think is a load of crap. Sure, he’s in a tough position as president, but there’s very little about Fitz/Liv’s relationship that says “great love” to me. It may very well be that they can’t stay away from each other, but that isn’t necessarily love. More like toxic and codependent.