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Danny Glover and Prof. Jacqueline Stewart

Actor and activist Danny Glover discussed a variety of topics with  Prof.
Jacqueline Stewart on Sunday at the University of Chicago.

Danny Glover Says the Film “12 Years a Slave” Deeply Affected Him

by Frederick H. Lowe
Staff Writer
The NorthStar News & Analysis

Veteran actor Danny Glover, who spoke Sunday at The University of Chicago during the school’s Annual Public Lecture  Series, said the Academy Award-winning movie “12 Years a Slave,” deeply affected him.

“I was numb. I never saw anything like it before. I had to see it again,” said Glover, who began acting in film and television in 1979.

He said the film, based on the 1853 memoir “Twelve Years A Slave,” by Solomon Northup, would be hard for some to see and many would not see it. The book is Northrup’s own story. A free black man from upstate New York, who was married and the father of two children and who worked as an in-demand violinist, Northrup was drugged, kidnapped and sold into slavery. He worked as a slave on plantations in Louisiana for 12 years until he was freed by an order from the governor of New York.

“Some people are afraid to see the film because there is a lot of guilt and a lot of pain [about slavery],” he explained.
Glover added that if white actor Brad Pitt, who has a small role in the film, had not backed the movie with some of his own money, it probably wouldn’t have gotten made.

“There are 15 men who determine what we see, and we have got to change that,” he said. “We have to find new ways of distributing films.”

Glover made his comments during an interview with Jacqueline Stewart, professor of Cinema and Media Studies at the University of Chicago.

The two sat across from each other at low table on a stage at Rockefeller Memorial Chapel. The chapel with its high ceiling and imposing stained glass windows made a dramatic backdrop for Glover to discuss his career and his opinions as the audience of academics, intellectuals, and members of Chicago’s communities sat quietly in pews, sometimes cheering his comments or seconding them with applause.

The only disturbing element of the event, which was sponsored by The Center for the Study of Race, Politics and Culture, was that a white campus police officer who patrolled the chapel with his jacket pulled up on one side to show the audience that he was carrying a gun. Some members of the audience wanted to know why he was even there.

During his 90-minute talk, Glover discussed in a free-flowing style a wide-range of subjects. He talked about growing up in San Francisco and watching city officials use urban renewal as an excuse to force African Americas to move out of the city.

In addition, he discussed black studies programs at San Francisco State University, watching on television the voter- registration drives in Mississippi and the effect they had on him. He also talked about young black men, and how watching foreign films helped him to become an actor.

He landed his first major movie role in “Places in the Heart,” the same day his mother, Carrie, was killed in an automobile accident. His mother and his father, James, were employees of the U.S. Postal Service and they were both active in the NAACP.

“I dedicated the film to my mother,” Glover said.

“Places in the Heart,” a Depression-era film based in Texas, was released in 1984. Glover played a black farmer.
He also said he was stopped on the street by two black men who complimented him for his role in the 1985 Western “Silverado.”

“They asked me ‘weren’t you the guy in Silverado?’ ” He said that he was. The men told Glover they liked his role because he played a character who could take care of himself.  His character in the film was named Mal.

Some of Glover’s other films include “To Sleep With Anger,” the popular “Lethal Weapon” series, “Witness” in which he plays a corrupt Philadelphia cop and the controversial “The Color Purple.”

A devoted activist

As much as Glover acts, he is also a committed activist. He is chairman of the board of TransAfrica Forum, the oldest African-American foreign policy organization, which was founded in 1977 during the anti-apartheid movement.  He is a union activist, and he participated in a five-month walkout at San Francisco State University to establish a Department of Black Studies.

Danny Glover

Glover is also a board member of The Algebra Project and The Black AIDS Institute. He also was a friend of Hugo Chavez, the late president of Venezuela, and he continues to pay dearly for that relationship.

He is making a film about global warming

Glover’s latest project concerns global warming. He wants to use the power of film to warn us about how this looming change to the environment will have a devastating effect on all of us, especially blacks and those living in poverty. The film’s working title is “This Changes Everything.”

“Global warming will affect the poorest countries; 40% of African countries are the most endangered by global warming,” said Glover, adding that “the power of film can bring this critical issue to people’s attention.”

After the grey-haired Glover finished his talk, he took questions from the audience. His answers were long, sometimes very long, and he got into a heated exchange with one man who accused Glover of receiving $28 million from the Venezuelan government to make a film about Toussaint L’Ouveture, the military genius who was the leader of the Haitian revolution.

Glover said he was offered $18 million on the condition he would raise another $12 million, which so far he has been unable to do.The unidentified man left the conference before it ended, but he stood outside Rockefeller Memorial Chapel, handing out literature that accused Glover of taking money from the Venezuelan government.

Haki R. Madhubuti, founder of Chicago-based Third World Press, however, summed up the afternoon for the audience, saying, “We are really glad you are here.”


Danny Glover:  TransAfrica’s Board Will Meet with Various Groups before Selecting a New President

by Frederick H. Lowe
Staff Writer
The NorthStar News & Analysis

Actor Danny Glover, who is chairman of the TransAfrica Forum, said the organization’s leadership will meet with various groups nationwide before naming a new president to replace Nicole C. Lee, who announced her resignation on Friday after eight years on the job.

“It is not going to be just the board making the decision,” Glover told an audience of  200 to 300 on Sunday at the University of Chicago. “We have to determine more about the organization and its direction. There are 150 million black people in Latin and South America, and we have to determine our relationship with them.”

He made his comments during a question and answer session at the school’s Annual Public Lecture, which was sponsored by the Center for the Study of Race, Politics and Culture.

In a prepared statement, Dr. Sylvia Hill, a TransAfrica Forum board member and an architect of the Free South Africa Movement, confirmed both Glover’s and the board’s intentions.

“Before engaging a new president, the board of directors will embark upon a consultation process with our many partners on the renewed vision of the work of TransAfrica Forum,” Hill said.  “In the short term, the organization’s focus will be to preserve the history of TransAfrica, the Free South Africa Movement and the Arthur Ashe Library collection for future scholars and generations. This preservation is important to ensure that the work of many will included in the historical record of Pan-Africanism and international solidarity.”

TransAfrica Forum, which is based in Washington, D.C., is the oldest African-American foreign-policy organization. It was founded in 1977 after being inspired by South Africa’s anti-apartheid movement. The 38 year-old Lee said she is leaving the organization to pursue other interests.

“Leading TransAfrica has been a privilege of a lifetime,” Lee said. “I continue to be humbled by the dedication of our members, community, and the founders of this historic organization. TransAfrica continues to stand for diversity in foreign affairs and justice for the Africa and Diaspora. These ideals have inspired me and generations of young people to stay engaged on issues impacting the globe.”



IBW21 (The Institute of the Black World 21st Century) is committed to enhancing the capacity of Black communities in the U.S. and globally to achieve cultural, social, economic and political equality and an enhanced quality of life for all marginalized people.