An actor’s activism

Jimmy Hall jhall@ptleader.com
Posted 7/31/18

Most know him for his work on the “Lethal Weapon” franchise or his role in “Predator 2,” but few may not know the depth of the film and television star's work around the globe in supporting …

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An actor’s activism

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Most know him for his work on the “Lethal Weapon” franchise or his role in “Predator 2,” but few may not know the depth of the film and television star's work around the globe in supporting efforts close to him.

That is  just one of the reasons why Danny Glover is traveling to the Pacific Northwest for the 19th annual Port Townsend Film Festival, scheduled for Sept. 21-23.

As the festival's guest, Glover will be presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award, following a conversation with PTFF founder Rocky Friedman and a screening of Glover’s 1990 award winning film “To Sleep With Anger,” thanking him for his years of effort toward social justice.

“It's so exciting to link what people know as a famous person and a person who has such beautiful social integrity,” said PTFF Executive Director Janette Force. “For (audiences) to understand, celebrity can be used for the greater good. That's what I find so inspiring about him.”

Force pointed to the director of “To Sleep with Anger,” Charles Burnett, who was also honored at PTFF.

With every notable person in the film industry, PTFF strives to find one who exemplifies the organization's ideals.

“It's a continuation of a theme that we've had for a while,” Force said. “He's been at this since 1970, so he has a huge body of work.”

Glover's history participating with all forms of activism stretch back to when he was a student at San Francisco State University as a member of the Black Students' Union. The work helped establish the Department of Black Studies after a five-month student-led strike. Today, he uses his voice to bring change as a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Development Program across borders.

He centers his efforts on issues such as poverty, disease and economic development in Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, as well as a current UNICEF Ambassador and Ambassador for the United Nations International Decade for People of African Descent.

“I don't consider it one specific issue, singular in itself. It's always related to other dynamics happening internally, nationally and internationally,” he said.

As a multi-faceted activist, Glover paraphrased Dr. Martin Luther King, who said, “True peace is not merely the absence of tension: it is the presence of justice.”

Glover has brought issues he has fought for over the years, such as homelessness in the film “The Saint of Fort Washington,” playing a homeless Vietnam veteran with Matt Dillon. The film he picked to be shown during the three-day festival also highlights these topics.

“To Sleep with Anger,” an independent 1990 film preserved in the Library of Congress, will be shown at 6:30 p.m. Sept. 21.

“We are often seduced by the big films, the ones that make a lot of money. Filmmaking and storytelling go beyond that,” Glover said. “'To Sleep With Anger' is an important film that covers a great deal of African American history (and) takes us through a whole generational process.” His performance in the film earned him the Best Male Lead at the Independent Spirit Awards.

He pointed out “great moments of migration” in African American history, likening it to immigration, as they would seek better employment, security and the American dream.

“All of those inhabit the film,” he said.

Along with this appearance, Glover will appear at 1:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 21 at the First Presbyterian Church for a conversation with Martha Trolin, community organizer about community activism and how he has used his talent and fame for good. Force called Trolin the perfect match for Glover, as she recently opened a skill-based mentoring program, Skillmation, reaching throughout several school districts.

Glover learned at an early age how to get involved from his parents, who were United States Postal workers and active members of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. They were also involved in the fight for organized labor.

“I was born in a movement moment,” Glover said, detailing how he learned the importance of activism during the Civil Rights Movement. “I learned at an early age that there were things that there were things that were happening and it takes ordinary human beings to make those changes happen.”

At just more than 70 years of age, Glover does not see his keeping up with his work as balancing. Between working as an actor, and traveling for speaker and activist events, Glover still makes time for his family.

“It's just as important for me to engage in discussion,” he said.

Glover was connected to PTFF through a friend, Nane Alejandrez, who asked if he would be interested in appearing. He will make the trip the Olympic Peninsula from Santa Cruz. PTFF is one of the smallest film festivals that he will appear, eclipsed by the more prestigious Cannes Film Festival, Toronto International Film Festival and Sundance Film Festival, with his production company, Lourveture Films.

“On the one hand, we have visibility in the public space, when we do something that ordinary people do, it becomes noteworthy,” he said about his celebrity status and how it relates to his activism. “For me, they're issues that are always connected, they're interchangeable.”

With recent movies like “Get Out,” “Moonlight,” “Black Panther,” and one of his most recent titles receiving praise, “Sorry to Bother You,” each representing the African American experience in different ways, Glover said he cannot articulate the expression shown in those films, but notes culture can look back retrospectively to better understand what impact it had.

“The industry is part of a broader kaleidoscope that controls that we see,” he said. “We are part of something much larger, that shapes the way we perceive … with not only with films but with culture itself.”

With a career spanning back to his first film, 1979's “Escape from Alcatraz” where he shared the screen with Clint Eastwood, Glover still keeps himself busy, tacking on project after project onto an already extensive IMDb listing.

“You don't retire from life,” Glover said about the notion of resting for the remainder of his life. “There are actors and actresses who still work who are much older than I am.”

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