Actor and activist Danny Glover, Albany civil rights leader Alice Green and youth advocate Brother Yusuf Abdul-Wasi Burgess will be the first recipients of the Spirit of John Brown Freedom Award, to be awarded at the John Brown Day 2016 celebration on Saturday, May 7th, at 1 pm.
The annual event, which is organized by Westport-based human rights and freedom education project John Brown Lives!, will be held at the John Brown Farm State Historic Site in Lake Placid. The public is welcome.
“Each of these individuals has had a profound and lasting impact on the world around them,” said Martha Swan, executive director of John Brown Lives! “John Brown’s life was marked by action – it was at the core of his efforts to end slavery and bring about racial justice. Danny Glover, Alice Green and Brother Yusuf have been just as tireless in their own efforts to promote and achieve lasting change, and we are so proud to recognize them with this award.”
The Spirit of John Brown Freedom Award honors women and men whose work invokes the passion and conviction of the 19th-century abolitionist who dedicated his life to the cause of liberation. The award celebrates leaders and innovators in civil and human rights whose courage, creativity, and commitment are models for others to follow.
“I’m truly honored to be among the first recipients of this award,” Glover said. “The spirit of John Brown is the spirit of resistance. The spirit of struggle. When we confront institutional racism and economic injustice in our country and around the world today, figures such as John Brown exemplify the kinds of proactive citizens we all need to be.”
Glover, an award-winning actor and activist, has been a dedicated champion of human rights, economic and social justice, climate change and the environment, and education and the arts. Currently a UNICEF Ambassador, Glover has also served as a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Development Program, focusing on issues of poverty, disease and economic development in Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean.
Glover’s acting and producing career has spanned 35 years, during which he has performed in Oscar-nominated films including “Places in the Heart” and “The Color Purple” as well as the “Lethal Weapon” series. In addition, he co-founded Louverture Films, which produces independent films of historical relevance, social purpose, commercial value and artistic integrity.
Alice Green is executive director of the Center for Law and Justice, an Albany-based civil rights organization she founded in 1985 that provides community education in civil and criminal justice, legal matters, community affairs, and civil rights and civil liberties. Her career includes stints as a teacher, a social worker and numerous activist roles. She has served in state government and as legislative director for the New York Civil Liberties Union. Green has received awards from the NAACP’s Albany chapter, Rockefeller College, the New York State Bar Association, among others. An adjunct professor at the University at Albany, she has also taught at Russell Sage and Siena colleges.
The award will be presented posthumously to Brother Yusuf Abdul-Wasi Burgess, an activist and youth leader who was committed to introducing youth from the Albany area to the Adirondacks. “Brother Yu,” as he was known, launched the Youth Ed-Venture and Nature Network to connect students to the Black history of the Adirondacks and to nature, where he led them on hikes, paddling trips, archaeological digs, climate change conferences, and other adventures. A John Brown Lives! board member, he died in 2014 at 64.
John Brown Day will also feature a performance by Magpie, a folk duo comprised of Terry Leonino and Greg Artzner, and a talk by Reuben Jackson, host of Vermont Public Radio’s “Friday Night Jazz.”
The New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation is co-sponsoring the event, as are the Adirondack Diversity Advisory Council, the Adirondack Foundation and Champlain National Bank.
John Brown Day is held annually to mark the birthday of Brown, who was born May 9, 1800. He is best known for the raid he led on the U.S. Arsenal at Harper’s Ferry, Va., in which he and his followers tried to confiscate weapons from the armory and use them in an effort to liberate slaves from the South. Brown, who was executed for treason, is buried at the farm alongside several followers who also fought in the raid.
About John Brown Lives!
John Brown Lives! (JBL!) is a freedom education and human rights project that uses the lens and lessons of the past to inform and inspire civic involvement to address some of the most pressing concerns of our time, from mass incarceration and human trafficking to voting rights and climate justice. Since 1999, JBL! has sponsored collaborations, research, community dialogue, and cultural initiatives that upend conventional narratives, provide portals for oft-avoided conversations, and facilitate examination of our history for its useful legacies in the present.