Before Danny Glover became a famous actor, he was an activist. In fact, he wasn’t simply born to be an activist, he was born into it. And after speaking with him today, I’d argue that fighting for fairness and equality is his true calling. That’s how committed he is to social justice.
“It’s part of a life evolution,” Glover, 70, states when asked how he got into social justice. “You try to emulate people who you respect growing up. As you mature, you realize the role that you play beyond childhood in and community and I think that’s the most incredible thing. I feel fortunate to be where I grew up at the time I grew up.”
Glover’s roots in activism go back to his hometown of San Francisco. He says his parents were part of a significant number of African-Americans who worked for the U.S. Postal Service from all over the country.
“The same time that they were involved with the union paralleled the movement for civil rights. [My parents] were involved in the structure of organized labor,” the star and humanitarian reflects. “They were able to embrace the changes that were happening around the civil rights movement.”
When Danny was a teenager, he observed members of The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) in action. Soon, he found himself on the front lines of justice.
“Around 1960 when I was 14, 15 years old, there were young people who had a defiant relationship with the community. That gave me another understanding…another kind of way in which young people who were not too much older than I were embracing the historic moment [of civil rights].”
Fast forward to more than fifty years later and Mr. Glover is still hard at work. The Color Purple actor is currently preparing to protest with thousands of activist in Canton, Mississippi, on Saturday.
He, along with other civil rights leaders, workers and elected officials, will take to Nissan’s plant in the town in an effort to demand justice for its predominantly African-American workforce.
“I’ve watched the plant here in Canton built by Nissan operate for 14 years. Workers have been asking for some form of representation and that number has grown. Also, the levels of intimidation and the insecurity around their job has increased. Some of the workers here at the plant—a significant number—have decided that they want a union to represent them. Now the company has decided that it’s going to use tactics of intimidation to keep workers from demanding their right to have a union,” Glover explained.
For years, Glover has been deeply involved in supporting Nissan’s workforce, one that is currently being denied the basic right to vote for a union. According to Glover, 43 of the company’s 45 plants are represented by a union. Mississippi and Tennessee-based Nissan plants are the only two that do not.
In terms of his legacy, Glover plans to remain just as committed to the fight for equal rights has he’s always been.
“We all have to step up as citizens and citizenship is a very strong word in my vocabulary, because I don’t advocate my responsibility as a citizen because I’m visible,” Glover said. “Artists now and artists historically have used their voice. Whether it’s Paul Robeson, Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee, whether it’s Harry Belafonte, it’s a critical time for us as citizens; it’s a critical time to be involved, and it’s a critical time to be active and have sustainable activism.”