Political activist and renowned actor Danny Glover visited members of Detroit’s west side Saturday evening to discuss grassroots activism in a poverty-infested area of the city.
Glover, who was in the area filming an upcoming movie, visited Eastern Michigan University professor Charles Simmons’ Hush House and the Leadership Training Institute for Human Rights.
Glover greeted more than 40 community members with a smile and handshakes as he walked through the door of the Hush House. Area residents were eager to brainstorm with Glover on how to uplift and change their surroundings in the neighborhood while also changing the individuals.
“Change is a demand,” Glover said. “Changing ourselves and changing the system that dictates our lives comes from the bottom up and you all are here from the bottom up.”
At the Hush House, Professor Charles Simmons and his wife, Professor Sandra Simmons, along with other community leaders, provide leadership training, programs for homeless and low-income families and space for community meetings. They are currently working on building an infrastructure in Liberia and are collaborating with the local community.
“We’ve had children walking late to school because they had to wait for their mother to stop working on the corner to put shoes on so they could go to school,” Sandra said.
“So that’s why were doing things like teaching people.”
Glover travels around the world to promote social justice. He initially met Charles in Brazil over seven years ago at the World Social Forum.
“We are in a network of grassroots community organizations that have similar views about building the city (Detroit) from the ground up,” Charles said, referring to his relationship with Glover.
Glover, a five-time NAACP Image Award recipient, spoke of his experiences traveling the globe educating people while performing his humanitarian duties.
“Albert Einstein said that imagination is more important than knowledge,” Glover said. “And where are we taking our imagination? Because it begins there.”
“[Martin Luther] King and Langston Hughes often talked about the possibility of the dream,” he continued.
“Reshaping and reformulating ourselves with the idea of the dream and you are here with the idea of that.”
Among the residents who came out to hear Glover speak was EMU student Jerry Whitfiled II, a senior studying journalism and business. He became acquainted with the Hush House after being a student in several of Charles’ classes and immediately decided that it was something he wanted to be apart of.
“I’m the founder of the Kurt Russell Literacy Program that meets [at the Hush House] every Saturday,” Whitfield said, explaining that the program is named after “the late legendary basketball player who was really into drugs.”
“Were trying to teach kids to stay away from drugs, but at the same time follow your dreams and don’t let nothing slow you down.”
Whitfield started the program with another EMU student Roshand Harris and a Detroit bookstore owner. The program is aimed at helping people from ages 13 to 21.
As the forum came to a close, Glover went upstairs to meet with an architect to see the plans the Simmons’ have in store for the Hush House.
“Were going to put a greenhouse in the backyard so we can have gardening all year round so we can distribute food in this area,” Charles said.
The Simmons’ also plan to open a women’s center across the street that will host faculty and graduate students from all over the world conducting research on Detroit.
“We want to get more property on this street so we can bring together activists, community builders and artists to stay in the same neighborhood so we can work together on various projects and live cooperatively,” Charles said.
In addition to gaining tremendous support from Wayne State University, where Sandra teaches, Charles said students and faculty from EMU also work with the Hush House on various projects.