Actor Danny Glover visits East Baltimore

`Lethal Weapon' star attends rally in support of march for poverty

October 08, 1999|By Kurt Streeter | Kurt Streeter,SUN STAFF

Actor Danny Glover came to Baltimore yesterday, not to perform or attend some black-tie affair.

He came to walk the streets of East Baltimore, a fact that astonished some and even made one woman cry.

Glover, well known for his roles in movies such as "The Color Purple" and "Lethal Weapon," came to support the March of the America's, a monthlong journey from Washington to the United Nations building in New York that seeks to raise awareness of people living in poverty in North and South America.

Glover joined the marchers for a noon rally at an abandoned lot filled with gravel and bricks in the 2300 block of Orleans St..

"Something is growing here," he shouted to an audience of about 60 marchers -- many who are homeless themselves -- and a handful of neighborhood residents. "Something profound. Something important. We must all continue to fight for basic civil rights. We must diffuse those who say that we are not important."

The actor, who grew up in public housing in San Francisco and now spends much of his time working for social causes, railed against what he called America's obsession with "accumulation of wealth and consumer goods," noting that the country must start paying attention to impoverished neighborhoods.

After Glover finished his speech, Misty Balerson, 22, cried on a street corner across from him.

"This is something you'd never think you'd see down here," she said, clinging to a baby stroller. "Just to know that people care. You know, where I live, my kids can't go out to play because of the drug dealers. There are rats as big as house cats in the lot next door, we don't have health insurance, there's only two people on my whole block with jobs. It's not exactly easy, you know."

The march, which started Oct. 1, is led by the Kensington Welfare Rights Union, a Philadelphia-based nonprofit that provides social services for the poor.

The marchers will go to 28 cities along a 300-mile route, walking 10 miles a day and stopping in parks and empty lots to set up tents to sleep in.

Reflecting the union's contention that poverty should be seen in global terms, the march included Mexican, Guatemalan and Haitian farm workers.

Yesterday, the marchers -- led by Glover and the union's executive director, Cheri Honkala -- snaked their way through a roughly 2-mile area in East Baltimore. They passed out fliers and stopped occasionally to talk to the neighborhood's residents, some who seemed mystified by the sight of a placard- and flag-waving group of strangers walking the middle of the street chanting "Hey-hey-ho-ho poverty has got to go!"

"Even though some people don't know what to make of this, this is a real positive for East Baltimore," said onlooker Nathan Askins, 32. "It's time we made a stand for the unemployment down here, time something changed.

"And man, Danny Glover, right down here," he added with an astonished smile. "That's cool, very cool."

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