February 22, 2010
As the rest of the world watched Haiti begin its arduous climb out of the chaos of January's catastrophic earthquake, veteran actor, humanitarian and Black AIDS Institute board member Danny Glover took one look at all the developments and shook his head.
As he saw it, U.S. military personnel had moved in a little too quickly to take control of the country's rescue and recovery efforts, and now they were at the forefront of the island's peacekeeping operations too, beating countries like France, the United Kingdom and China to the punch.
While many in the Haitian government have responded positively to U.S. efforts to help the country regain stability, Glover is concerned about potential underlying motives. He says we may be overlooking what could be the United States' covert attempt at neocolonialism.
"Twenty thousand troops on the ground, and you can't get water and food to the people?" he asked. "We have to make sure this is not a militarization process all under the guise of security. ... Rescuers were coming from all over Latin America--Brazil, Venezuela--[and] even Europe to help Haiti. And yet the U.S. has control over the airspace and determines who lands and doesn't land there. This is of concern to a lot of people."
It's hard to fault Glover for being a bit protective. A longtime fan of the island--Latin America's first independent nation and the world's first Black-led republic--the actor fell in love with Haiti when he first traveled there in 1973 for a dose of culture and history.
"Before I went, I didn't know anything about the Haitian revolution," he said. "I didn't know anything [about] its heroes: Toussaint L'Ouverture, Jean-Jacques Dessalines and others. But I came to learn that the U.S. played a role in undermining Haiti's sovereignty over the years. It purposely attempted to maintain a relationship [with Haiti] that would bring about a legacy of instability."
Glover has felt so strongly about this issue that he vowed 25 years ago to finance and direct a movie about the 18th-century slave uprising that led to Haiti's independence, despite concerns about the movie's commercial prospects, given that it would have a Black director and no White stars. Although he has managed to raise more than $18 million for the project--much of it coming from his longtime friend Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez, who gave Glover permission to shoot the film in his country--the epic has been stalled.
"Everything has changed with the world economy, and it's made raising money for the film difficult," Glover says of his labor of love, for which he has been able to get commitments from stars like Don Cheadle, Mos Def, Wesley Snipes and Angela Bassett. "But I'm not abandoning it," he adds. "Perhaps maybe now with what's just happened in Haiti, people will understand why this story is so important. It may soon be the perfect time ... we'll see."
One thing's for sure, though: For Glover, the timing has never been better to up the ante in the war on HIV. The actor is pulling triple duty as a board member for the Black AIDS Institute, a UNICEF ambassador and a global ambassador for the United Nations Development Program. In the latter capacity, he has traveled from Trinidad and Tobago to Tanzania to support programs that promote HIV testing, the prevention of mother-to-child transmission, and stigma reduction.
"My brother lives with HIV/AIDS. He has been living with HIV for the past 20 years," Glover told young people in Tanzania, UNICEF reports. "The work and the responsibility we have are not simply to our immediate families but also to the community that we are living in."
To that end, Glover has submitted written testimony about the AIDS pandemic to the U.S. Congress: "We have the moral responsibility to make a difference while we can: not only for those currently living but for those future generations as well." He also co-chairs, along with actress Jackée Harry, the Trump AIDS National Bid Whist Tournament. The initiative, which will promote HIV awareness and testing in more than 25 cities nationwide, is sponsored by the Black AIDS Institute.
When he's not helping to battle the epidemic, the Emmy-nominated thespian has his 9-to-5 to keep him busy. He's starring in a slew of upcoming films, including the comedy Death at a Funeral, with Chris Rock and Martin Lawrence; and the animated adventure Alpha and Omega, with Christina Ricci and Justin Long.
Tomika Anderson is a freelance writer based in Brooklyn, New York. Her work has appeared in Essence, POZ, Real Health and Ebony magazines, among others.