Glover, celebrating King, calls for peace

Actor urges Americans to voice opposition to possible war with Iraq

January 11, 2003|By Jamie Stiehm | Jamie Stiehm,SUN STAFF

Lethal Weapon movie actor Danny Glover spoke out against a possible war in Iraq yesterday, telling a Baltimore crowd gathered to celebrate the birthday of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. that the slain civil rights leader's dreams for peace are "being dismantled as we speak."

Speaking to about 500 people at the Johns Hopkins medical campus, Glover was one of three speakers who used King's birthday as a chance to criticize the state of domestic and foreign affairs.

"King's teachings and words resonate today like never before," Glover said after a spirited keynote address at Turner Auditorium to hospital staff, faculty and students, some clad in scrubs on their lunch hour. "He creates amazing possibilities for us."

With an unusually strong political touch for the annual affair, Glover and the two other speakers -Hopkins heart surgeon Levi Watkins Jr. and Julie Belafonte, wife of musician Harry Belafonte - criticized the possibility of a U.S.-Iraq war.

Glover, active in human rights causes, said he never met King, the charismatic Baptist preacher who was jailed several times as he fought Jim Crow laws and sought equality for African-Americans in the 1950s and 1960s.

The actor reminded listeners that King had opposed the Vietnam War. Glover urged the gathering to take a similar stance if the United States becomes engaged in a military action in the near future.

"King said this way of settling differences cannot be reconciled with justice," Glover told the audience.

King,of Atlanta, Ga., would have turned 74 this month. He led nonviolent protests in the face of police hoses and dogs in Alabama and reached his greatest height of eloquence in the "I Have a Dream" speech in 1963 in Washington. He was assassinated at age 39 in April 1968 in Memphis, Tenn.

Watkins, who also is a professor and associate dean of the medical school, echoed Glover's view, saying the Vietnam War was about "guided missiles and misguided men. ... This is what we have now in Iraq."

The 21st Hopkins celebration of King's birthday was organized by Watkins, who as a boy attended King's sermons at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Ala.

"When you're 10 years old, you're always trying to get out of church," Watkins recalled yesterday. "But after Dr. King came, we stayed in the church."

Watkins also took issue with what he called a system of "private segregation," meaning clubs with only white males for members.

Julie Belafonte accepted the Ideals Award for her husband, who was unable to attend. She said she is surprised by the lack of public dissent in America.

"Dissent is seen as unpatriotic," she said. "What happened to dissent? Dissent is one of our constitutional liberties."

Belafonte remembered King fondly as a friend and guest in her home. "What I loved about Martin is how down-to-earth he was," she said. "He never, never exuded a sense of being a great man."

Amir A. Ghaferi, 22, a medical student and one of eight community service award winners, said, "Mr. Glover put it in perspective, that we're drifting away from Dr. King's vision without even realizing it."

As the program ended, the Unified Voices choir of the Hopkins medical institutions sang a rousing "Happy Birthday."

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