SOUTH LOS ANGELES — In a discussion that ranged from slavery and reparations to Africa’s freedom movement, actor Danny Glover, a college professor and a local radio host entertained a group of people at Holman United Methodist Church Dec. 2.
Sponsored by KPFK 90.7 radio and titled “Discussing the Interrelationship of History and Today’s Social Justice Movements,” Glover was joined by KPFK radio personality Margaret Prescod and University of Houston professor Gerald Horne to discuss a number of social and political issues.
Prescod, host of the popular “Sojourner Truth” show, kicked off the discussion by addressing the Reconstruction period and the rise and fall of Jim Crow.
“The Reconstruction period following the Civil War snuffed out voting rights for blacks due to national terrorism,” Horne said. “The democratic system, which was in its infancy, was snuffed out and reconstruction also led to the final push against Native American activists.”
The 13th Amendment, which abolished slavery, was ratified on Dec. 18, 1865. It still left blacks to fend for themselves, Prescod said.
“The 13th Amendment of the Constitution was enacted, but believe it or not, Mississippi didn’t sign the amendment until 1995,” Prescod added. “Despite the arrival of the Reconstruction period, there was the rise of the Ku Klux Klan. We never got our 40 acres and a mule.’’
Glover said that haunting symbols of black repression before and during the Reconstruction period are still visible in the country.
“My mom comes from Lewisville, Georgia,” he said. “It was a penal colony and the epicenter of the expansion of slavery. The auction block is still there.’’
“There is still a profusion of monuments standing in the South,” Horne said. “These monuments are telling you that slavery was a justifiable institution before succession. It is apparent that the symbols of the power and toxicity of slavery are still intact.”
“Let’s talk about Africa’s freedom movements,” Prescod said. “Genocide is going on in the Congo. Zimbabwe, which is the poorest country in the world but is the wealthiest country because of what’s underneath the ground. They have precious minerals that fuel airplanes and cell phones.’’
‘’None of the countries in Africa have been allowed to become nation states and to have their own sovereignty and independence,” Glover said. “Ghana is not even 60 years old and look what happened to Ghana.’’
Ghana has been wracked with reports of widespread corruption, which has affected its citizens.
Horne said that despite the recent transfers of political power, Africa is firmly in the grip of senior rulers, despite recent upheavals.
“There’s been an enormous uproar with the arrest of elderly kings in Africa, some of whom are in their 90s,’’ Horne said. He added that their political replacements are usually in their 70s, leaving little room for younger, fresher-thinking African leadership to rise in the political arena.
The discussion turned to the issue of reparations, which has been vigorously demanded by blacks both domestically and abroad.
Horne noted that former U.S. Rep. John Conyers first introduced a bill calling for reparations in the U.S. in 1989 and has repeated that call in the first session of Congress every year since.
“I feel that people need to work out a sound argument when it comes to reparations,’’ Horne said.
“There is a serious movement in the Caribbean regarding reparations,” Prescod said.
Jamaica, Antigua and Barbuda have all established national commissions on reparations. Several years ago, 14 Caribbean nations attempted to sue European countries over the reparations issue, but the lawsuits were dismissed.
“How do you feel about reparations?” Glover asked the audience. “It seems that reparations have grounded itself not only in the academic community, but in the grassroots as well. I have been in discussions with citizens, especially in the Caribbean, and you see this extraordinary movement surrounding reparations. They are far ahead on the issue of reparations and have a unity of thought.”
Prescod said the status quo is still not taking the issue of reparations seriously.
“They act like we are not owed anything when we know the country was built on our backs,’’ she said.
Glover indicated that the United States still grapples with “the Negro problem.”
“It’s still an issue,” he said. “What do we do with the Negroes? You don’t know how I feel about Charlottesville or when a black man is gunned down in the street.”
Horne asked Glover if he had any reflections about whether things have changed or not.
Glover reflected that one major change he has noticed personally was that he was getting older.
“I was born in 1946, when Paul Robeson and Albert Einstein launched an anti-lynching campaign,” said Glover, who added that his activism was sparked during the Black Student Union protests in the 1960s.
“There are lessons we can learn today as we attempt to build movements,” Glover said, reflecting on former Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who was also a revolutionary.
“He was an organic intellectual who had the capacity through his own will and individualism to create enormous possibilities for his country, but we must look at the choices and mistakes he made. He attempted to democratize the process. It’s important to look at ourselves as well as the past.’’
Pausing, Glover added, “There are times when you get discouraged. I may feel those moments of despair, but we have to keep stepping and keep moving.”
He noted that movements for social justice will continue.
“I am enamored with what ordinary citizens are doing,” he said.
He added that one of the issues that he was most concerned with was climate change.
“We have not talked about the boogie bear in the room — and that is global warming,” he said. “We need to talk about global warming and climate change and we are going to have to fight both every step of the way.”