Pictured: Danny Glover with Selma James at the Crossroads Centre on Saturday
Published: 03 May 2012
by ANGELA COBBINAH
KENTISH Town shoppers who thought that the lanky figure in the baseball cap quietly arriving at a community centre bore an uncanny resemblance to Hollywood A-lister Danny Glover were not mistaken.
The Lethal Weapon star himself stepped into his real-life role as a political activist to attend a fundraising meeting for the earthquake-hit island of Haiti on Saturday.
He had flown in overnight from San Francisco at the invitation of the event’s organisers, Crossroads Women’s Centre, with whom he has been working to support grassroots self-help groups in the wake of the disaster of two years ago.
It is part of his lifelong love affair with Haiti which began after reading Black Jacobins, CLR James’s classic account of the slave uprising that gave birth to the world’s first independent black republic in 1804, he told a packed meeting.
“Who would have thought it that when I first visited the island in 1974 that it would become an essential part of my world, an essential part of how I look at the world,” said Mr Glover.
Haiti, which 200 years earlier had managed to defeat the imperial armies of France, Britain and Spain, is now the poorest country in the Western hemisphere due to sustained outside political interference.
“Haitians have never been forgiven for seeking their freedom – they did something that was unthinkable, something that was unfathomable,” said Mr Glover.
“These extraordinary people” were still fighting for their freedom, “a dynamic process” that had begun two centuries earlier. “Like Paul Robeson, I knew then that an artist has to make choice – to fight for freedom or slavery,” said Mr Glover.
In 2004 Haiti’s democratically elected socialist president, Jean Bertrand Aristide, was ousted following his demand that the French return the $21.7billion it had forced the new nation to pay the slave holders in compensation.
Accusing the US of backing the coup, Mr Glover described how his involvement in the country took centre stage last year after he dramatically flew to South Africa where Mr Aristide had been living in exile to bring him back to Haiti despite – the opposition of the US authorities.
“I had the privilege and honour to escort Aristide home in March last year. It was a great moment for me,” he said.
Both the UN secretary general Ban Ki Moon and President Obama had said, “don’t let him come”, and the South African government appeared to prevaricate, Mr Glover revealed.
“But they must have experienced a flashback as every one of them had been in exile too… and we were to allowed to bring Aristide home with his wife, two daughters – and the dog,” he added.
Mr Glover, who said he had spent the past 30 years trying to put together a film about Toussaint L’Ouverture, leader of the slave revolt, spoke of how thousands of Mr Aristide’s supporters turned out to welcome him.
“We are here because of all those heroes, all those sacrifices – their struggle is our struggle,” he said.
The evening at Crossroads raised more than £3,000 that will go to the Haiti Emergency Relief Fund.
The story of Crossroads
PRIDING itself as being the oldest women’s centre in London, Crossroads has generated plenty of headlines over the years.
It began as a squat in Drummond Street, near Euston Station, in 1975 as headquarters for the Wages for Housework campaign, which had recently been set up.
After being evicted, the group launched a vociferous campaign for new premises, at one point marching into Camden Town Hall.
In 1979 the borough’s housing chief, Ken Livingstone, offered the women a disused shop on the rundown Hillview Estate in the heart of King’s Cross’s red light district.
As part of its work, the King’s Cross Women’s Centre, as it was then known, campaigned on behalf of prostitutes.
A group of masked women occupied Holy Cross church in Cromer Street for 12 days in 1982 in protest at police harassment of sex workers.
In 1996 it was forced to move on – this time to Kentish Town Road– after Hillview was sold to Community Housing Association.
Last month, it moved into its latest home, a former doll factory in nearby Wolsey Mews.
The new centre’s first event was held last weekend, a two-day international conference, Invest in Caring not Capitalism, and a Haiti benefit night organised by Global Women’s Strike, one of 15 groups operating under the Crossroads banner.
Others include Women Against Rape and Legal Action for Women.
As testament to their dedication, many of those running Crossroads today are the same volunteers that started out with it 37 years ago.