Danny Glover to visit campus for community discussion

Long before actor Danny Glover was starring in blockbuster movies like “Sorry To Bother You,” he was a student activist at San Francisco State University where the first ever college Black Studies department in the United States was formed.

On Monday, Oct. 8 at 7 p.m. in Straub 156, he will speak with the University of Oregon community about the role of protest in education and the power of student activism.

Glover, now 72, will join visiting law professor and former secretary of the Black Panther Party Kathleen Cleaver, 73, and the UO Black Studies department for a roundtable discussion billed as  “Freedom of Expression: The Role of Protest in Transforming Education.”

The event is part of the Freedom of Expression series started by University of Oregon President Michael Schill earlier this year. The series has engaged the campus community in conversations ranging from trust in the news media to free speech.

“This event is important for everyone,” said Leslie Alexander, an associate professor of History and Black Studies at the UO. “We’re living in a day and age where people need to be reminded that their voices matter.”

Glover’s history of social activism spans decades. In addition to being a member of the Black Student Union while a student at SFSU, he has since been involved with the Vanguard Public Foundation, the Algebra Project, the Black AIDS Institute and the Walden House, among others throughout his successful acting career. He also serves as a United Nations Goodwill Ambassador.

Director of the Black Studies Department Curtis Austin has been working to organize this event for the last six months because he believes it is important for the community to learn about the powerful social change that has historically, and can still, come out of student activism.

“Students will be able to learn from someone who was actually there,” Austin said. “For me, there is a huge difference from learning something from a textbook or a lecture versus learning from someone who actually took part in creating the history.”

Austin will moderate a panel featuring Glover, Cleaver, Alexander and Drue Edney, a UO graduate student and member of the Black Student Taskforce. According to the event website, the discussion will be centered around “the important role of Black Studies, free speech, and student activism in transforming society.”

“The textbooks will tell you that it was President Johnson that signed the act, or Martin Luther King who gave this wonderful speech, or Rosa Parks who registered someone to vote,” Austin said, “but it was actually young people who did the legwork to bring about the changes that we mostly take for granted today.”

Cleaver, a senior lecturer and research fellow at Emory University School of Law in Atlanta, Georgia, has a long history of social activism. According to the event website, she got started by watching her parents fight for human rights in the 1950’s civil rights protests. She spent several years working with groups such as the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and the Black Panther Party before enrolling at Yale University where she earned both her bachelor and law degrees.

More than anything, Austin said, he hopes that the discussion will empower students.

“I think it would behoove people to think about the fact that much of the positive social change that we enjoy actually came from student protest,” Austin said. “My hope is that students will learn to see themselves as capable of making change not just in their own personal lives, but in the lives of others.”

Alexander said that it was student protest that sparked the creation of Black, women’s and queer studies departments and that she hopes the event will remind the community not to take them for granted.

“It’s important for students today, and the public at large, to appreciate the fact that students have had the courage to step forward and demand from universities that they create an educational system that reflects a more truthful and holistic of what the American experience has been about.”

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Olivia Sanchez

Olivia Sanchez