The Nina Turner Show: Believing It’s Possible with Danny Glover
Danny Glover tells Nina Turner how he became an actor and activist, and calls for a global movement that raises expectations of itself and of the world
Nina Turner: I’m here with the amazing Danny Glover. Actor, activist, director, and icon. Some people know him as Mister from the Color Purple, and others know him as Mr. Lethal Weapon himself. Mr. Danny Glover, welcome to the Nina Turner show on the Real News Network.
Danny Glover: Well I’m glad to be on.
Nina Turner: So glad to have you here.
Danny Glover: It’s good to be here, Nina. With all the hyperbole, I’m still glad to be here.
Nina Turner: It’s all true! When you got it, you got to embrace it, you do. Speaking of embrace, you’ve been doing this for a very long time. Why do you do what you do, especially in your position?
Danny Glover: One of my positions has been constant, ever since I took my first breath, and that’s I’m a citizen. All the things that bring you to this point in life, or where you are throughout life, it’s not just …
It didn’t start yesterday, and it didn’t start just when I decided I wanted to become an actor. It’s the investment and having something articulated through movements. Articulated through me, to me, through movements. My parents were postal employees, strong, staunch advocates of unions. Involved in their union, their local union. The National Alliance of Postal-
Nina Turner: They were NAACP, weren’t they?
Danny Glover: No, and they were involved … and members of the NAACP, but they were members of the National Alliance of Postal Employees. And the way you saw, just at the point of the Civil Rights Movement, just as the Civil Rights Movement began to find of find ground and find … African Americans were dominating the Postal Service.
I can go to Cincinnati, I can go to [crosstalk]-
Nina Turner: Where you going.
Danny Glover: Yeah, I can go to Chicago, and Philadelphia, anyplace and the first time I ask, “Raise your hands, and which one of your parents, grandparents, uncles or aunts were at the Post Office?” And the hands would fly up.
Nina Turner: But those government jobs were really the entrée for many African Americans into the middle class.
Danny Glover: Absolutely, the entrée. Our parents became homeowners when it was really affordable in San Francisco to become a homeowner. All those things I think were the things that were calculated in my life and were the foundation of how I began to see the world.
Nina Turner: But what made you do what you do? I mean some people … Is there a sacrifice? Are there risks that you take? You take hard stances on certain issues that may rub people the wrong way. Have you ever had to suffer a consequence within your career for being so outspoken for justice?
Danny Glover: I don’t think about that, because the career, the business itself is subjective in certain ways, that each actor or actress has their own journey, particular journey. Some of that has to do with what is considered the talent they have, and some of that has to do with a number of other things.
I’ve, from the very first moment that I decided to be … that I first came on stage, it was during the Black Arts Movement, and I’m talking about 50 years ago. That’s the first time I stepped on stage. I was 20 years old and never stepped on stage in my life.
The idea that the work in the black … that movement, Black Arts Movement, was connected to the work of Freedom Singers in the South and it was a … and the black theater in New York, the Negro Theater Company in New York. All of those particular things. So I’m part of a legacy, that’s the first thing, you understand.
Nina Turner: Yes.
Danny Glover: You’re part of a continuum, you’re part of a continuum of ideas. Of people who are using art as an expression of their own humanity, and using that art not only for their own transformation, but the transformation of their community and society.
Nina Turner: And to critique a society, right? To give voice to the-
Danny Glover: Exactly, and to critique society.
Nina Turner: But speaking of your journey though, in 2016, you decided to endorse the Democratic Socialist from Vermont, Senator Bernie Sanders. And I think you really talked about him as being the person that could really go up against a corrupt system that was really leaving working class and poor people behind.
Danny Glover: I’ve been an active citizen ever since I saw my parents organize for justice. Today I see a broken system that’s not up to the task of fulfilling the promise of America. I’ve joined the Bernie Sanders campaign for economic and social justice because he’s trustworthy, boldly courageous, and incorruptible.
Nina Turner: What made you support him?
Danny Glover: We have to deal with, I think in the moment, and I’m not the first one to say this. The battle of ideas. What are the ideas? If we want a really fundamental change, what are the ideas that bring that about? Whose side are you on? What’s that? “Whose side are you on boy, whose side?”
Whose side are you on? And I felt that Bernie Sanders was on the side of working people. He was on the side of those who were less fortunate. He was on the side of those who were disenfranchised. He was on the side of them. And his message is, whether it was young, or whether it was Millennials, or whether it’s Baby Boomers like me-
Nina Turner: Seasoned folks!
Danny Glover: Or whatever in between. Everything in between. Was connected to that. I remember on the … ‘Cause I’ve heard about Bernie Sanders. I hadn’t met him before, but I heard a great deal about him doing Jesse Jackson’s campaign-
Nina Turner: One of very few whites-
Danny Glover: One of very few-
Nina Turner: Elected officials-
Danny Glover: Thank you-
Nina Turner: To endorse him.
Danny Glover: Elected … Endorsing all his … Look here. There … And he tells the truth. He doesn’t owe anyone anything.
Nina Turner: Right. But he didn’t. But he didn’t. So the ideas, do his ideas still permeate? Because … What are your thoughts about the current status of the Democratic Party, and where that party should and could go into the future?
Danny Glover: I think, on the one hand, so many people have pontificated over the current status of the Democratic Party-
Nina Turner: Do we need a third party?
Danny Glover: I’m not so sure. I think that we may come to that point, that we need a third party. I think it’s possible at this period to use this Democratic Party. And if we determine that there’s a third party, then certainly those constituencies, those citizens, feeling that they no longer can be represented, or it’s not a possibility to be represented. Or we need another angle in which with to look at. We need another voice within that … I think that’s important.
But right now, I think we have to use what has developed in this moment. People didn’t … People came to the Democratic Party with Bernie Sanders on there. So there’s always been a left on the Democratic Party-
Nina Turner: Right. You were in Philly.
Danny Glover: Huh? I was-
Nina Turner: You were in Philly, and I just recently saw a interview that you and Paul Jay did. Had no idea. It really brought tears to my eyes. But I’m told that you were in the chair, you were about to interview with the Real News, and you get a call sayin’ “Nina needs our help! You’ve gotta go!” And you told Paul Jay, “I got to go! My sister needs my help!”
You’re in the car, and you and Paul Jay are interviewing, and you don’t quite know what is going on, but you know that something is wrong.
Danny Glover: That something’s wrong, yeah. Yeah.
Paul Jay: We’re going to a press conference, which is about Nina Turner. The Clinton Camp doesn’t seem to be all that concerned about unity or appeasing the Sanders Camp.
Danny Glover: Or even appeasing those who … or speaking on behalf of those people who are on the outside. The homeless people I see around here in Philadelphia itself, and all those who are in need of the Democratic Party, who relied on the Sanders campaign as a voice for them who are without a voice. I think the point is, is that, what Bernie’s campaign has done with the Citizens’ Campaign has done, is that it has expanded the body politics. Expanded the involvement of young people, etc.
For the Clintons, their idea of this whole thing, and the Clinton campaign, and everything else, their idea is ‘Get over it! You young people, get over it!’
Nina Turner: How is that moment, not just about “I’m with Nina,” but I really believe that that was a pulse of the people who felt forgotten during that convention process.
Danny Glover: That’s what I think, in some sense. And I think, whatever, whether we’re in Canton, Mississippi, or whether we’re in Philadelphia, with those people who were on the outside of the convention. I don’t think Bernie Sanders, and whatever compromises he made, and had to make, in order to make this thing flow, as if it … He never was any inclusive in the process. He was always on the outside of this. And that’s the problem that has happened at that particular moment.
We can argue many points about whether this campaign of Bernie Sanders was either expected to go, or was it expected to have the kind of resonance that it did. Or we can say that it was forecasted. That people are out there because they’re upset. They’re upset. What they’re gonna do is, they’re gonna find some sort of way in which to express that upset, at the way in which they’re upset about things. And they found that Bernie Sanders became, at that moment, the catalyst for them to express that.
And you could see this, even possibly some of those people who voted for Trump were people who were potentially could have voted for Sanders at any point in time.
Nina Turner: Well, we know that a lot of them did.
Danny Glover: Yes!
Nina Turner: I mean, so many folks that voted for President Obama both times ended up voting for Mr. Trump. Even in my home state, he won 70% of the vote in 30 counties in the great state of Ohio.
Danny Glover: Wow. Yeah.
Nina Turner: So people are hurting. They’re looking for something. As someone once said to me, they want “Genuineness, regardless of even if it might be hurtful”-
Danny Glover: And that’s what he brought.
Nina Turner: Right?
Danny Glover: He brought you that. He brought that in his demeanor. He brought that in his message. He brought that in a way in which he was able to, through the campaign, hear the issues around mass incarceration. He could hear the issues around Black Lives Matter. He could hear issues that he didn’t just throw under the rug. But it brought him to … He can the issues, LGBTQ, all of those things that are on the table right now. And I think Bernie Sanders’ presence there allowed for a dialogue that would not have been there-
Nina Turner: Without him.
Danny Glover: Without him. Would not have been there.
Nina Turner: Where do we go from here? I mean, we have the Women’s March. We have a lot of people protesting in the streets. I believe protest is good, but we need somebody doing the planning. If you were encouraging-
Danny Glover: If y’all wasn’t here-
Nina Turner: Yeah, if you had to tell folks, where do we-
Danny Glover: Yes, what do we do? Where do we … Because part of resistance is the idea of what do you want? What you expect. How you envision. Dr. King talked about the dream. When he’s talking about the dream, he’s not just laying in bed dreaming about it. He’s talking about the dream as a facilitating the possibilities of who we can be. And how can we transform ourselves?
What are the moral … What are the ethical parameters, or foundation on which we build a new world? How do we look at climate change, and everything else? How do we look at population? How do we look at war itself? War, and the ensuing refugee crisis. So we have these crisis, but we have these opportunities to shape a world. And that-
Nina Turner: So you believe that there’s promise in the problem?
Danny Glover: I don’t know if it’s a promise in the problem, but I know that there’s promise in our addressing and understanding that we are the problem itself. We have to do what we have to do, as citizens, in order to have the possibility of changing the problem.
Now, there’s many obstacles. You know, we all know, that 50% of the wealth in this world is controlled by who? Corporations. Who make money off of war. Who make money off of various other … the kind of instability that happens. The exploitation that happens with workers and people. There’s money to be made off of that. There’s profits there to be made.
We’re in a situation, wherever we are, whether it’s in this country, or whether it’s around the world, it’s a race to the bottom. Now, why is that? Why haven’t we been able, after all this extraordinary moments in the 20th century? There have been historic moments in the 20th century. From the labor rights movement, women’s rights movement, all these things and everything. We keep pushing the envelope right now. Why have we not been able to overcome this next stage?
Could it be that the system, the economic system it functions in … In some ways, that we function in, is a system in which it, in a sense, entices us to remain engaged? Entices us to believe that there are possibilities in it? When ultimately, we know that the system itself is the main reason why we have the planet crisis that we have.
Nina Turner: It’s rigged! Right? I mean, it is rigged.
Danny Glover: It’s rigged, but rigged from the standpoint … But the things that happen around us. The things that we accept. All those things that we accept. All the ideas that we accept. I’m not trying to be esoteric and everything, but the ideas. What are the ideas around the world we want to build? What does it look like? We talk about other places in the world. Hugo Chavez and-
Nina Turner: You just got back from Venezuela … How do you connect the struggle of the … You talk a lot about the diaspora-
Danny Glover: I do. Yes. Yes.
Nina Turner: The connection between our black sisters and brothers in Venezuela, or in Haiti. Just the whole Pan-Africanism. You talk a lot about that, and that is actually lost. You just got back from Venezuela. How do you see that nexus, and can brown and black people all over the world come together in a strong way?
Danny Glover: It’s impossible that can’t. I mean, they have to come together, in a sense.
Nina Turner: Do we know that, though?
Danny Glover: I think we do … Not to simplify anything, ’cause there’s no simple, uncomplicated situation that we’d be in, in realities. Realities are complicated in a way. So where do we define … And when define the critical issue around the world, through the main engine which dictates what happens in the world, the system of capitalism, is race.
Nina Turner: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Danny Glover: If we look at the issues around migration, immigration. If we look at the issues around destabilization. If we look at the issues that are created by destabilization. We look at the bottom of, is race.
Nina Turner: But is there any way to deal … I mean, we live in a capitalist society. It’s not going to change in America. Is there any way, do you think to make the system better for people. Because I don’t know about you, but I’ve never met anybody who said, “When I grow up, I want to be poor. I want to be on the system.”
Danny Glover: Well-
Nina Turner: But people treat poor people as if this is something that they envisioned for themselves.
Danny Glover: And I think our first test is where do we begin to elect progressives who don’t … who are not bought off by the system, and begin to institute not only the policies that would change domestically the relationship that we have to capital, the relationship that we have to corporations … When do we begin to elect them, who are out there lobbying on our behalf. Not on the system’s behalf-
Nina Turner: But you just hit the nail on the head. And is that possible to-
Danny Glover: We have to believe it’s possible, Nina. I mean, right now, we have to raise the bar of our own expectations. Power tends to diminish our expectations of ourselves. Our expectations. But we have to raise the bar on our expectations. And we have to be better citizens. We have to hold people accountable.
Nina Turner: When you say “better,” do you mean informed? Do you mean-
Danny Glover: Informed. Informed citizens, and active citizens. Not all like today. But we have to be able to say, “I want to know who the dog catcher is.” You understand what I’m saying? They elected a young mayor in Berkeley, California. 32 year-old, Hispanic mayor. We have to be … I’m going to do something Friday for Mayor Donnelly, a congressional candidate in Los Angeles. So all those particular things that we have to see. We have to push-
Nina Turner: So if people are not running for office themselves, they need to find a candidate or a cause that they can believe in. We can’t sit on the sidelines. I mean, if you can-
Danny Glover: There’s no sitting on the sidelines.
Nina Turner: If you could say to, not just Millennials, but anybody that has a consciousness, who really feels as though the system is against them, and that there is no hope. Whether they don’t like the fact that Mr. Trump is now president, or whether they believe that the Democrats rigged the primary. There are lots of people who feel as though that this thing is never going to be fixed. What would you say? If you had to tell them three things that they could do, or three things to believe in, to hope for as we move forward as a nation. What would those things be?
Danny Glover: I mean, if I was to name one?
Nina Turner: Yeah.
Danny Glover: I’d ask them to be involved in electoral politics. Where the-
Nina Turner: “But my vote doesn’t count.”
Danny Glover: Huh?
Nina Turner: “My vote doesn’t count. And I don’t vote, Mr. Glover, because my vote doesn’t count.”
Danny Glover: Nonononononononono. That’s unacceptable. That’s-
Nina Turner: “But my life hasn’t changed at all. I’ve been voting for these people”-
Danny Glover: Our life may not change directly. What happens to … And what do we mean by “life change.” If “life change” means that we have more trinkets to play with. Or “life change” means that we feel that I’m living in a better world. There has to be some place where you feel that you live right, but there has to be a new sociology. There have to be a new pedagogical approach to where we’re going and what we’re doing.
Nina Turner: How do we get that? Not just with the people who should, you’re right, expect more, but also the types of people that we will elect to office.
Danny Glover: Well, we expect more out of them as well. And if-
Nina Turner: And do we not elect … If somebody doesn’t perform, then is it right to say, “You know what, you don’t get another chance. We’re voting you out! We’re not gonna vote for you next time.”
Danny Glover: That could be in some cases. I mean, those things can happen in some cases. We have to understand that we’re right now, that we could become … Not the Trump Card, but we could become this-
Nina Turner: Oh, please, not the Trump Card!
Danny Glover: We could become the most instrumental. I believe in this project, this project of humanity. We’ve watched it go a lot of ways, but you know, we have to believe in it. That we in ourselves, we right here, are capable of not only imagining what our best interests could be, but also acting on that.
Nina Turner: Do you believe we can make it happen?
Danny Glover: I believe we can make it happen.
Nina Turner: Okay. We’re going in on those possibilities, and we are so glad that we have you in that space. Thank you so much for joining me.
Danny Glover: You’re welcome.
Nina Turner: You are the man!
Danny Glover: [inaudible]
Nina Turner: Yes, you are!
Danny Glover: I’m trying to [crosstalk].
Nina Turner: The Lethal Weapon of Justice! Thanks so much for joining us for the Nina Turner Show on the Real News Network.