Actor/Activist Danny Glover stresses community at Tampa school
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02/25/11 Kate Bradshaw
WMNF Drive-Time News Friday | Listen to this entire show:

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As part of Black History Month, scores of students at a Tampa school heard from a famous visitor this morning. Actor and human rights activist Danny Glover told students at Just Elementary that it’s important to be community-minded – and to keep studying.

Hundreds of grade school children beamed as the actor implored them to be conscientious. The Color Purple star was there as part of Just Elementary’s Black History program. He recited the Langston Hughes poem “I, Too, sing America.”

Glover told the students that they wouldn’t be hearing those words if iconic African-American writer Langston Hughes hadn’t chosen to write them down. His emphasis on the importance of writing comes days before the school’s fourth-graders, and fourth-graders across the state will take the writing portion of the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test, or FCAT. He told the room full of students that it’s also vital to scope out the work of other writers.

Earlier in the program, a group of first-graders reenacted the story of Ruby Bridges, who at six years old fell into the center of the civil rights debate. Her mother had insisted she go to an all-white school in New Orleans, where US Marshalls had to escort her in on her first day. Glover told the cafeteria full of mostly African-American students that reflecting on the challenges they’ve fought to overcome for generations will help them discover their own potential.

Glover has been outspoken in his criticism of US foreign policy, especially the war in Iraq and the US’s relationship with Haiti. He told WMNF there’s a connection between the uprisings in places like Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya and events happening a little closer to home.

He said community-mindedness is especially vital these days, a time when wages are stagnant for many, and working-class families have been traumatized by the loss of economic opportunities in communities throughout the US. Glover added that the middle class has been shrinking at an alarming rate.

Just Elementary is across the street from a public housing project in West Tampa. Glover said regardless of their background, kids everywhere should have access to necessities like quality education and health care.

Glover added that, like protesters in the Middle East and North Africa, and like the abolitionists of a century and a half ago, informed populations can fight for social change and economic justice – but only if they talk about it first.

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