Vanderbilt’s 30th MLK Commemorative Series concluded Monday night with a keynote address by actor and humanitarian Danny Glover. The world-renowned actor and producer has a unique story compared to many other celebrity good-doers—actors turned humanitarians, musicians turned advocates for the under-privileged. Glover, instead, was activist first and actor second.
The Californian got his start as an activist at San Francisco State University, where he was part of the Black Students Union, a group that participated in a student-led strike resulting in the establishment of the first ever Department of Black Studies at a university. Since, Glover has become an advocate for economic justice, a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Development Program, and a UNICEF ambassador.
Glover’s keynote address, moderated by Vanderbilt Divinity School Professor Dale P. Andrews, shed light on Glover’s involvement in the African Liberation movement of the mid-20th century, and his ongoing fight for economic justice in the U.S.
“My relationship with Africa goes back to when I was a student in the 60s,” Glover explained. “It was clear that the movement in Africa and the movement in the U.S. paralleled each other.”
Speaking of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Nelson Mandela, Glover remarked that “both of these men marched in order to bring justice and equality to their people.”
Glover has also spoken out for economic equality, regarding which he said “you can’t have real justice until you have economic justice.” The actor and humanitarian expressed that it is important for people to understand that “we are all interconnected.”
“The 20th century,” Glover said, “has been shaped by corporations and their gaining more power, and more power, and more power.”
Glover spoke to the importance of student activism, in the same vein as the Occupy movement of recent years and the anti-war movements of the 60s and 70s.
“What we do with this moment,” he said, “is what we have to pay attention to and understand.”
In an earlier conversation, Glover explained that he believes students should find what they are passionate about. “Each of us can find a way to engage ourselves, in some part of our lives, through citizen action,” he said.
“Real activism,” he concluded, “is an activism of transformation…trying not only transform society, but to transform ourselves.”