The Fight for Global Justice by Danny Glover

The Fight for Global Justice by Danny Glover


ChickenBones: A Journal

for  Literary & Artistic African-American  Themes



The elections last Tuesday spoke to a limited and very short-term victory for

the Bush administration. The temptation in the media to simplify the message of

the mid-term elections and to glorify the electoral win as a national mandate

does a true disservice to journalism.



The Fight for Global Justice

Remarks Before National Press Club

November 12, 2002

By Danny Glover

Board Chairman of TransAfrica


Thank you, Ladies and Gentlemen. I appreciate that warm welcome. I would like to take a moment to thank National Press Club President John Aubuchon, the officers, Melinda Cooke and especially Askia Muhammad for the gracious invitation to address the National Press Club Newsmaker Luncheon today. Many of you might be familiar with TransAfrica from the days of the Free South Africa Movement in the 1980s, or the trailblazing path the organization set in raising awareness of the plight of Haitian refugees and U.S. policy toward Haiti in the 1990s. TransAfrica’s first president and founder, the visionary Randall Robinson, truly defined the institution and was the face of TransAfrica Forum. But when Randall moved on after being at the helm for 25 years, we were confronted with something new and daunting. It is called change.

A dynamic leader stepped up to the plate to boldly help define and shepherd our work in a complex and different moment. Beginning his tenure as President early this year, Bill Fletcher Jr., comes to TransAfrica with more than 20 years experience as a labor leader and organizer. Harvard trained, he is both an intellectual and activist who believes that his job is not to promote himself or even the institution. Through a range of partnerships and alliances, he and the organization are dedicated to building new possibilities for change. Bill is marshalling the resources we need to realize the vision of an organization with global justice as the mandate.

The task is immense. As was noted in the introductions, Bill is here with us today at the head table and will join me during the question and answer period to engage you further and to elaborate on the mandate before TransAfrica Forum. We are determined to inject an informed African-American perspective into policy discussions and to challenge prevailing assumptions about the world and our place in it. Part of TransAfrica Forum’s mission is to bring more people and more ideas to the table of U.S. foreign policy.

The world we lived in when TransAfrica was launched back in 1977 was very different. The enemy was obvious and indisputable. Literally, the battle was painted in the stark hues of black and white. We could train a spotlight on the South African apartheid regime and galvanize a movement. The goals seemed clear and straightforward; the results easy to measure. Today, as we move ever closer to war with Iraq and our government wields unparalleled military might – proclaiming itself the uncontested empire with the power to impose its will any where at any time – TransAfrica Forum has huge, new challenges. It is important for those of you in the media to understand that people are groping for answers.

The elections last Tuesday spoke to a limited and very short-term victory for the Bush administration. The temptation in the media to simplify the message of the mid-term elections and to glorify the electoral win as a national mandate does a true disservice to journalism. The notion of preeminent domination with no accountability, checks, or balances will have disastrous consequences – not only for the people of Iraq when and if the Bush administration strikes there – but for all of us, here in the United States and around the world. To answer terrorism and tyrants with global, unilateral military domination sets in motion a devastating spiral. Only clear and strong voices – in the media and in the national discourse – can stop this spiral.

There is a need like never before to speak truth to power. And there is also a desire for collective action. Our mission at TransAfrica is to engage people, primarily people from Africa and the Diaspora in the United States – but all people – around the questions ‘why is foreign policy important’ and ‘how can it make a difference in our lives.’

On September 11th – the relevance of foreign policy – in tragic and catastrophic ways – crashed at our front door. We believe with organizing, education, coalition building, and action, TransAfrica can bring issues from across the globe to our front door and help our constituents understand that these issues matter in the same way that taxes matter and combating crime on our streets matter. The goal is to create a just, safe, and sustainable planet, not only for us, but also for people around the world. This is not charity or altruism. Peace, security, and justice are in our collective self-interest.

Someone asked me recently how I became involved with TransAfrica Forum. I trace my political interest in Africa back to when I heard the legendary South African artist Miriam Makeba for the first time. She and trumpeter Hugh Masekela burst on the music scene at a time when Black people in the U.S. were starting to become more aware of their African heritage. The couple brought the sound of the South African townships to the world stage. Most of us knew little about South African apartheid at that point. But we were eager students. My first antiapartheid protest was in 1969.

As a college student, my own budding political sensibility was excited also by the literature of that era about the African liberation movement. I was strongly influenced by the revolutionary fervor of great thinkers who became statesmen, such as Kwame Nkrumah, who was known, along with W.E. B. Dubois as a pioneer of Pan-Africanism and presided over Ghana’s independence movement; Leopold Sédar Senghor, who helped found the Negritude movement — which he defined as “the totality of the cultural values of the Black world” — and was elected president of Senegal in 1960; and Kenneth Kaunda, the founding president of Zambia who supported the liberation of neighboring states in southern Africa.

They fed my hunger for a fundamental connection to Africa. And thus began my quest. In the mid-’70’s, I began to perform the works of Athol Fugard, a white South African playwright whose material was banned in his homeland because he delved into the psychological devastation of apartheid. I began to realize that theater and acting could raise awareness – and as a member of the African Liberation Support Committee – could raise money as well.

I have performed Fugard’s work in community and regional theater, and on and off Broadway. Plays such as the Blood Knot, Sizwe Bansi Is Dead, The Island, Boesman and Lena, and Master Harold … and the Boys put a face on life in apartheid South Africa. This brings me to where we are now.

I am committed to not being a lone voice in the wilderness. I took on the chairmanship of TransAfrica Forum because I understand the power of institutions. I see the organization as an opportunity to make change, build alliances, and forge new activism. We are deeply involved in connecting with the student movement and creating a vibrant youth arm of TransAfrica because we believe that is our true assurance of a future. We are also partnering with youth and students, labor organizations, academics, community activists, and individuals whose interests converge with TransAfrica’s. Ours is a multi-prong agenda that will build upon a set of interconnected core principles that Bill Fletcher has labeled DARAS: D-A-R-A-S. It spells nothing but means a great deal:

D is for Debt relief. The possibilities for democracy, justice and a future for countries in the global South are being strangled by debt repayment policies imposed by international financial institutions with no regard for stability, rationality, or fairness. Take the example of the democratically elected government of South Africa. Right now, that nation is paying on loans that were incurred by the same apartheid system that denied the South African majority the right to vote and participate as equal citizens. It is the debt that is a major obstacle to reconstruction and development of South Africa’s national infrastructure.

A is for AIDS. This pandemic has ravaged a continent that is being held hostage by pharmaceutical genocide. How would we respond if a virus were claiming the lives of 15,000 American citizens every month and treatment existed but was being denied to those who needed it? About one quarter of South Africans are HIV positive. Yet, the wealthy, multinational pharmaceutical corporations resist making medications more accessible. It was not until pressure mounted from the international human rights community that some relief was granted. But the need remains monumental. The continuing toll could wipe out an entire generation.

R is for Reparations. Most of you are familiar with the push for domestic reparations for citizens in the U.S. who are the descendants of Africans who were enslaved here. While we support that movement, TransAfrica Forum takes a global stand on reparations that goes back 500 years to the African continent. We cannot divorce ourselves from the role the United States and Europe has played in the devastation of Africa itself.

This is a long historical trail beginning with the slave trade, colonialism, neocolonialism, the cold war, and now the new globalism. I point to the examples of Angola and the Congo. One nation ravaged by war the other by tyrant – both financed and supported by the United States government and its European allies. This is not about a check, but it is about righting the wrongs of a succession of U.S. administrations and policies.

A is for Agricultural Subsidies. Something is wrong with the picture when a scheme is in place that makes U.S. agriculture king around the world. For instance, it is cheaper for Jamaica, with its great potential to cultivate a bountiful breadbasket, to purchase Florida fruits than it is to grow and sell its own domestic crops.

S is for Sovereignty. It is a fundamental right of all nations to determine their own economies – not dictated by the genius of the International Monetary Fund or George W. Bush – based on their own needs and democratic aspirations. Our work around Haitian sovereignty embodies this principle. Right now, the U.S. is blocking $500 million of promised aid to Haiti because it wants to reshape the direction of the democratically elected government there. An array of complex and difficult realities frame the issues in Haiti, and I welcome the opportunity to engage you further on this topic during the question and answer period. Ladies and gentlemen, this is just a glimpse at our priorities. You will hear more from TransAfrica on these issues.

I am excited to work with Bill and my fellow board members who include my mentor and soul traveler Harry Belafonte; celebrated author Walter Mosely; business leader Harriet Michel; economist Julianne Malveaux; educators Johnnetta B. Cole, Manthia Diawara, and Sylvia Hill; lawyer Charles J. Ogletree Jr.; labor leader Patricia A. Ford; and physician James Davis. Together we are charged with the huge but important task of rejuvenating TransAfrica Forum. For those who are interested, you are invited to an open house at TransAfrica Forum’s new headquarters. Our publicist Gwen McKinney, who is here, can provide you with the details.

In closing, let me share a few initiatives that we have already embarked upon:

  • The Campaign to Abolish Sweatshops – We are partnering with UNITE and other labor activists and students to expose the exploitation of workers in Africa, the Caribbean and Latin America.

  • The Globalization Monitor, which is designed to offer a major information resource on international financial institutions, multinational corporations, and the governments that support them.

    If you provide Gwen McKinney with your email address, we would be happy to forward you a copy of the inaugural issue.

  • The TransAfrica Forum Scholars’ Council, which initiates policy briefs, position papers, and roundtable discussions on health education, labor, women, economics and sustainable development and builds coalitions with trade unions and others.

  • The Southern African Trade Union Leadership Academy is being developed to strengthen the working class movement in that region.

  • In coalition with others, we are undertaking a campaign around Haitian sovereignty.

  • We are in the preliminary stages of planning a hemispheric conference on race and labor, and will continue to find public vehicles to express our opposition to U.S. policy toward Cuba.

  • And, as mentioned earlier, we are beginning a TransAfrica Student Network to mobilize young people around the issues I’ve discussed and to build a new leadership core for the future of our movement.

We see TransAfrica Forum as a catalyst — a major center for activism — that will only be successful by acting in concert with others. We intend to play a significant role in educating and mobilizing the general public – particularly African Americans — on the economic, political, and moral ramifications of U.S. foreign policy. And we look forward to the very essential task of engaging the media as we take this journey.

With that, Bill Fletcher and I thank you for your attention and welcome your questions.

*   *   *   *   *

Danny Lebern Glover,

African American actor and director and activist, was born 22 July 1946 in San Francisco. He is a graduate of San Francisco State University. As a young man he was a member of the Black Panther Party. At the University, he met and married his wife, Asake Bomani, in 1975; they have one child named Mandisa. Glover received his dramatic training at the American Conservatory Theatre’s Black Actors’ Workshop. He made his film debut in Escape from Alcatraz (1979). In the early 1980s, Glover made his name portraying characters ranging from the sympathetic in Places in the Heart (1984) to the menacing in Witness (1985) and The Color Purple (1984).

He reached boxoffice gold status with the three Lethal Weapon movies. Glover contributed an amusing cameo in Maverick (1994). That same year Glover made his directorial debut with the Showtime channel short film Override. In 1998, Glover again had his role for Lethal Weapon 4, and that same year gave a stirring performance in the little-seen Beloved. He also joined the ranks of actors such as Humphrey Bogart, Elliot Gould, and Robert Mitchum who have portrayed Raymond Chandler’s private eye detective Phillip Marlowe in the episode Red Wind of the Showtime network’s 1995 series Fallen Angels. On January 13, 2010, Glover compared the scale and devastation of the 2010 Haiti earthquake to the predicament other island nations may face as a result of the failed Copenhagen summit the previous year. Glover said: “the threat of what happens to Haiti is a threat that can happen anywhere in the Caribbean to these island nations. . . . They’re all in peril because of global warming . . . because of climate change . . . when we did what we did at the climate summit in Copenhagen, this is the response, this is what happens.”

Danny Glover has been an outspoken critic of the Iraq war before the war began in March 2003. In February 2003, he was one of the featured speakers at Justin Herman Plaza in San Francisco where other notable speakers included names such as author Alice Walker, singer Joan Baez, United Farm Workers co-founder Dolores Huerta and Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland. Glover was a signatory to the April 2003 anti-war letter “To the Conscience of the World” that criticized the unilateral American invasion of Iraq that led to “massive loss of civilian life” and “devastation of one of the cultural patrimonies of humanity.” On the foreign policy of Obama administration, Glover said: “I think the Obama administration has followed the same playbook, to a large extent, almost verbatim, as the Bush administration. I don’t see anything different… On the domestic side, look here: What’s so clear is that this country from the outset is projecting the interests of wealth and property. Look at the bailout of Wall Street. Why not the bailout of Main Street? He may be just a different face, and that face may happen to be black, and if it were Hillary Clinton, it would happen to be a woman. . . . But what choices do they have within the structure?”

Source: Wikipedia and All Media Guide

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Most provocatively, she reveals how both the move toward colorblindness and affirmative action may blur our vision of injustice: most Americans know and don’t know the truth about mass incarceration—but her carefully researched, deeply engaging, and thoroughly readable book should change that.—Publishers Weekly

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update 21 July 2012




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