Friday, April 22, 2016

John Brown Lives! To Recognize Danny Glover, Alice Green, Brother Yu

John Brown Day 2016 PosterActor 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.

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8 Responses

  1. Pete Klein says:

    I’ve never understood why John Brown should be regarded as anything but a terrorist. His cause was worthy but his methods were criminal.

    • John Warren says:

      Maybe it’s because you lack a moral compass.

      • Boreas says:


        I think your comment about Mr. Klein is a bit harsh. A terrorist for a good cause is still a terrorist. His methods are what made his place in history. There were multitudes of others with the same moral objection to slavery that didn’t result to violence.

        • John Warren says:

          The terrorists were the people keeping others enslaved, beating and torturing them, raping women at will, selling children off to the highest bidder. The “John Brown was a terrorist” crowd only ever seem concerned about the small amount of violence of the John Brown raid and never the much larger violence of slavery. They are not even remotely comparable. Violence isn’t what makes you a terrorist, as history plainly shows.

          • Boreas says:


            I am certainly not saying institutional slavery and many of its practitioners were not vile and despicable terrorists. You will get no argument from me on that regard. But WRT John Brown’s actions and tactics, one can draw parallels with terrorist violence today such as anti-abortion violence and even the age-old murder-in-the-name-of-religion morality themes. Even fervent abolitionists at the time disagreed about his tactics and whether he helped or harmed their cause.

            But I think we will need to agree to disagree on whether the murderous actions of Brown’s band in Kansas and his violent intentions in Harper’s Ferry were considered terrorist acts or acts of morally justified violence.

            • John Warren says:

              I’m not convinced. The idea that the violent struggle against the enslavement of millions of Americans is somehow a terrorist act strikes me as nothing more than revisionism and typical of the rush to false equivalencies today over questions of race.

              If attempting to lead a slave revolt in a war against slavery define you as a terrorist, than more than 360,000 Americans who died in the Civil War (by and large with John Brown as their murdered hero) are terrorists too.

              And honestly (in keeping with the false equivalencies), the argument that John Brown is a terrorist conveniently ignores the men he was leading. One of them was fighting to free his wife who was then being held in slavery in the south and he was carrying a letter from her in his pocket begging him to help her – was he a terrorist too? Do you think he thought John Brown was a terrorist? Did he have a right to violate the law and use violent means to free his wife?

              It’s shameful that some white people today can be so flippant about this. Pete Klein is a regular flippant observer, practicing his own brand of privileged speech that demeans. I think he got the reaction he deserves.

  2. Wayno says:

    John Brown stood for complete equality of blacks and whites back in a day when very , very few people would accept that idea. Even most abolitionists wouldn’t go that far. He was a man willing to fight, and die, for what is right. A very bloody war was ultimately the only way to end slavery and the winning side marched into battle singing tribute to John Brown.

  3. Pete Nelson says:

    Was John Brown a Terrorist? Was he a martyr? Do we see his actions through the lens of a modern world that has given rise to Al Qaeda and ISIS? Or do we see his actions through the lens of war, in this case war against a moral crime of incomprehensible proportions? What do we forgive in war? Was Dresden terrorism? Little Big Horn? My Lai? Do we accept our heroes’ sins or do we create perfect models out of them? Is that fair to anyone? To history?

    These are all good questions.

    If you were to talk to those who created and support John Brown Lives! you would not hear a defense of a man whose every action was defensible, whose every choice was morally right. What you would hear was the story of a man who by his very complexity, zealotry, triumphs, crimes and failings, is an essential actor in our equally complicated and compromised American history, and whose dedication to the struggle against slavery is so powerful that to this day he himself provides a perfect lens through which we can see how far we have yet to come in a society still riven by racism and bigotry. To appreciate John Brown, to explore the lessons to be learned in his story, is not about accepting all he did. It is – to quote a friend of mine who knows a little bit about John Brown – about asking “who belongs and who gets to decide?” in this world where all should be welcome, free, appreciated and understood.