July 25, 2012
Since the early years of the epidemic, prolific actor Danny Glover has worked in a profession that has been devastated by AIDS. "I had a friend who died from the complications of AIDS in 1987," he said. "Even then when I didnt know a whole lot about the disease, I would bring him food and do what I could to help him."
Moved by the disease's destructiveness, Glover embarked upon a mission to increase AIDS awareness in hopes of challenging minds and saving lives.
The award-winning star of such blockbusters as the "Lethal Weapon" series, "Mandela," "Beloved" and "The Color Purple," Glover spoke this week at the Global Village of the International AIDS Conference -- the portion of the health gathering that is free and open to the public -- in Washington, D.C., where he addressed the importance of getting involved in AIDS advocacy.
"This is something that we all should get involved in," said Glover, whose own brother has been HIV positive for more than 20 years. After addressing the public, Glover spoke to a team of Black journalists.
Glover is no stranger to advocacy or humanitarian work. At 20, while a student at San Francisco State, Glover formed a social-justice group to draw attention to some of the unrest occurring in communities of color.
In 1998, he was named United Nations Development Program (UNDP) goodwill ambassador. He travels throughout African, Latin American and the Caribbean countries, visiting economic-development projects and using his celebrity to publicize the fight against poverty and HIV.
In Durban, South Africa, at the 2000 International AIDS Conference, Glover met Phill Wilson, president and CEO of the Black AIDS Institute. Wilson opened Glover's eyes to the need to engage in AIDS activism back home.
"Phill said it is fine to talk about what is happening in Africa," Glover recalled. "But we must also add to the conversation what is happening in under-served communities in the United States, right in our own backyards."
When he spoke in the Global Village in Washington he addressed hundreds of researchers, community advocates and AIDS activists from around the world, as well as the public.
"We are in a crisis situation now, with this disease adversely and disproportionately affecting Black men, and in particular, gay Black men. With the platform I have, I intend to continue to speak out about it," he said.
First-time conference attendee Cassandra Dillworth was moved. "His presentation was ground level. It met me where I am and I'm grateful for that," she said. "His being here really is raising the bar in the African American community."
"I was encouraged to continue my mission of disseminating information to communities of color," said Jason Davis, a Black HIV-positive 23-year-old, who uses his positive status as an opportunity to teach. "As teenagers we tend to think that we will live forever and we live our lives very carelessly."
Glover, who turned 66 this week, encouraged the audience to fight within whatever space and platform that God has endowed them. "Everyone, not just athletes, actors or famous people should help to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS," he said. "Chances are you know someone infected with the disease or you will be affected by it, so we are all in this together."
Othor Cain is managing editor of the Mississippi Link.