Q&A: Actor Danny Glover on Africa Activism

Tom Foreman
Inside Base Camp
March 19, 2003

Danny Glover does not simply enter a room. He fills it with his bigger than life smile and outsized frame, with hands that swallow those of everyone he greets, with movie star fame and quiet confidence.

When Danny walked into our Base Camp studio to talk about his work with Transafrica Forum I knew his commitment well. In 1999, Glover donated a million dollars to this group, which seeks to influence world economic, educational, and governmental policies toward Africa.

As chairman of the group, Glover has spent endless hours preaching about the terrors of the AIDS epidemic there, where in some places 1 in 3 people have the HIV virus. He talks perpetually about a continent three times the size of the contiguous U.S. with vast savannas, monstrous deserts, lush forests; but also staggering poverty, crushing national debts, ancient tribal rivalries, the terrible vestiges of apartheid and colonialism.

As Glover settles onto the stool opposite me at the interview table, I notice the gray sprinkled into his hair by 55 years of living; in his face the echoes of a professional life started as a social worker in his native San Francisco.

But there is more. In his appraising eyes, I see not an actor but an activist intent on bringing serious change to the ancestral home of all humankind.

Tom Foreman: So many Americans look at those overwhelming problems in Africa and want to say it's hopeless. It's too big. It's too troubled. It just can't be fixed. Why shouldn't they feel that way?

Danny Glover: Well, it seems daunting. It seems like it's an impossible task, but it is a task that we can work at. It is a task in which we can make some change. We have to create an idea that fundamentally we can change what is happening on this continent. We have to believe that fundamentally. We have to believe that our contribution to this first part of the 21st century is that we can deal with the issues of AIDS, we can deal with the issues of poverty, that we can deal with the issues surrounding the gap in development.

Tom Foreman: Why should we want to do that for Africa?

Danny Glover: Because the suffering of any human being diminishes all of us, and it's our responsibility. If we take Christian doctrine, if we take Islamic doctrine, whatever doctrine we take; if we want to be an atheist, that doctrine says that we focus on that, that we address that…that we draw our human resources, we draw our fiscal resources, our mental resources to addressing that suffering.

Tom Foreman: You talk a great deal about debt relief. What difference would that make? How would that affect things?

Danny Glover: Countries around the world, not only Africa, are burdened with enormous interest that they pay on debt. That (debt relief) would allow countries to reallocate money to education, reallocate money to civil society, and reallocate money to infrastructure development, health…all those things. I think debt relief would do that. How can we use all our ingenuity, all our technology to construct communities which are safe, which are secure, which deal with issues around gender equality, which deal with the issues around equitable distribution of resources, which deal with conserving the world's resources.

Continued on Next Page >>


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