Whoopi the Activist

After ending my previous post dedicated to Whoopi Golderg with these words for her, “Thank you for being the wonderful person that you are”, I realized that for my visitors it is probably not yet obvious that she is, in herself, a wonderful person too, not just a wonderful actress.

The thing is that I still know more about her than you do: while doing on her life and work all that detailed research I felt more and more like doing – the more I read, the more enthusiastic I became. I had already noticed she seemed to be quite a compassionate and generous person; besides the many ’causes’ she had helped in other ways than financially, I stumbled on a small paragraph on some site, that mentioned the many ‘charities’ she donates to. To tell you frankly, it did to me what the incredibly long para on Wikipedia about her innumerable Awards of all kinds had already done: I was amazed.

So last night, thinking about it in bed before sleeping, I felt this really generous aspect of her too should be mentioned here; not just mentioned – it should now have a post of its own, I had gathered enough material for that. As you will see, not all of it is ‘politically correct’, but  I hope you will not object even to that any more than I do.

To start with then, from Wikipedia again, with thanks again, some more extracts, interspersed with my own remarks and additional writing:

‘Between the years of 1979 and 1981, she lived in communist East Germany, working in a number of theater productions. During her travels, she would smuggle various items into the country for the artists she stayed with.[10]’

One could say that her so successful participation in ‘The Color Purple’ (1985), as Celie Harris, the central character, has truly served the cause of black women in the USA:

‘Filmed in Anson and Union counties in North Carolina,[1] the film tells the story of a young African American girl named Celie Harris and shows the problems African American women faced during the early 1900s, including poverty, racism, and sexism. Celie is transformed as she finds her self-worth through the help of two strong female companions.[2]’The Color Purple poster.jpg

Besides the extraordinarily positive review by Roger Ebert that I have quoted already in my previous post, other reviews by noted critics brought about a valuable discussion of the film:

‘Ebert’s long-time television collaborator, Gene Siskel of the Chicago Tribune, praised the film as “triumphantly emotional and brave,” calling it Spielberg’s “successful attempt to enlarge his reputation as a director of youthful entertainments.” Siskel wrote that The Color Purple was “a plea for respect for black women.” Although acknowledging that the film was a period drama, he praised its “… incredibly strong stand against the way black men treat black women. Cruel is too kind a word to describe their behavior. The principal black men in The Color Purple use their women — both wives and daughters — as sexual chattel.”[6]

New York Times film critic Janet Maslin noted the film’s divergence from Walker’s book, but made the case that this shift works:

Mr. Spielberg has looked on the sunny side of Miss Walker’s novel, fashioning a grand, multi-hanky entertainment that is as pretty and lavish as the book is plain. If the book is set in the harsh, impoverished atmosphere of rural Georgia, the movie unfolds in a cozy, comfortable, flower-filled wonderland. … Some parts of it are rapturous and stirring, others hugely improbable, and the film moves unpredictably from one mode to another. From another director, this might be fatally confusing, but Mr. Spielberg’s showmanship is still with him. Although the combination of his sensibilities and Miss Walker’s amounts to a colossal mismatch, Mr. Spielberg’s Color Purple manages to have momentum, warmth and staying power all the same.[7]

Variety found the film over-sentimental, writing, “there are some great scenes and great performances in The Color Purple, but it is not a great film. Steven Spielberg’s turn at ‘serious’ film-making is marred in more than one place by overblown production that threatens to drown in its own emotions.”[8]

In addition, some critics alleged that the movie stereotyped black people in general[9] and black men in particular,[10] pointing to the fact that Spielberg, a white man, had directed a predominately African American story.[11]

Filmmaker Oliver Stone defended The Color Purple as “an excellent movie, and it was an attempt to deal with an issue that had been overlooked, and it wouldn’t have been done if it hadn’t been Spielberg. And it’s not like everyone says, that he ruined the book. That’s horseshit. Nobody was going to do the book. He made the book live again.”[12]’

Guinan, the character played by Whoopi in ‘Star Trek: TNG’ from 1988 on, brought also to the public’s appreciation this highly evolved being from the El-Auria homeworld, so remarkable and impressive in spite of her apparently unimportant official role aboard the ‘Enterprise’: bartender at ‘Ten Forward’, the lounge. The black color of her skin (while the two other  main female characters, Dr Crusher and Counselor Deanna Troi, are both white), the mystery of her origins and the now vanished culture  of which she is still wearing the costume (including the large headgear) with panache, the mysterious long-standing friendship she has with Captain Jean-Luc Picard on the one side, and on the other side, enmity with arrogant Q,  her wisdom and inner strength, all  this adds up to make of Guinan one of the most inspiring characters in the series, thus serving indirectly but quite effectively the cause of black women in 20th century Earth too!….

‘In January 1990,  Goldberg starred in The Long Walk Home, portraying a woman in the civil rights movement,’.

This specific role can be seen as a direct contribution to that cause.

Then, in 1990 too, came out ‘Ghost’:

‘Ghost has received generally favorable reviews and has a “Certified Fresh” rating of 74% on Rotten Tomatoes based on reviews from 65 critics.[7][8][9] It has a score of 53 on the review site Metacritic, indicating mixed or average reviews.[10] The film has been criticized for featuring the Magical Negro stereotype with Oda Mae Brown.[11] However, in spite of this, Goldberg’s performance was highly praised. Janet Maslin in her review for The New York Times comments, “Ms. Goldberg plays the character’s amazement, irritation and great gift for back talk to the hilt. This is one of those rare occasions on which the uncategorizable Ms. Goldberg has found a film role that really suits her, and she makes the most of it.”[12] Goldberg went on to win the Academy Award, BAFTA, and Golden Globe for her performance.’

And then there is Whoopi’s long-standing contribution to ‘Comic Relief’:

As the 1980s concluded, she participated in the numerous HBO specials of Comic Relief with fellow comedians Robin Williams and Billy Crystal.’

Comic Relief, Inc. is a non-profit charity organization whose mission is to raise funds to help those in need—particularly America’s homeless. It has raised and distributed nearly US$50 million toward providing assistance—including health care services—to homeless people throughout the United States. Although Comic Relief’s charity work is continuous, its actual events are held and televised at irregular intervals—and primarily by Home Box Office (HBO), with comedians Robin Williams, Billy Crystal, and Whoopi Goldberg as the hosts each time. They—along with many other comedians, celebrities, and occasional politicians—perform various segments—both general-purpose and specific to homelessness—of standup comedy, sketch comedy, speeches, live music, and impressions of persons and characters—all in order to entertain and enlighten. There are also documentary segments dealing with real-life problems of homeless people, in order to raise awareness of not only the grim realities but also how many hard-working “ordinary” people can wind up or grow up homeless. In exchange for contributions exceeding certain key amounts, T-shirts, sweatshirts and other merchandise are typically for sale.’

From another website, when Googling “Whoopi Goldberg’s charities” (the emphasis put on the beautiful quote from her is mine):

‘Whoopi has served on the Advisory Committee for FilmAid International.

The comedienne has channeled her celebrity into bringing attention to countless causes including AIDS, children’s issues, healthcare and substance abuse.

“I fear waking up one morning and finding out that my life was for nothing. We’re here for a reason. I believe a bit of the reason is to throw little torches out to lead people through the dark.”

Since 1986, Whoopi has been hosting the Comic Relief television specials benefitting charities helping the homeless alongside good friends Robin Williams and Billy Crystal.

In 1999, she received the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation Vanguard Award for her continued work in supporting the gay and lesbian community.

In addition, Whoopi was named a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador in 2003, and serves on the Board of Garden of Dreams.

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She also gave a short message at the beginning of the Junior Eurovision Song Contest 2008 wishing all the participants good luck, and stressing the importance of UNICEF, the official charity of the Junior Eurovision Song Contest.[34] Since its launch in 2008, Goldberg has been a contributor for wowOwow.com, a new website for women to talk culture, politics and gossip.[35]

Goldberg has also been an advocate for human rights worldwide, moderating a panel at the Alliance of Youth Movements Summit[36] on how social networks can be used to fight violent extremism[37] in 2008, and also moderating a panel at the UN in 2009[38] on human rights, children and armed conflict, terrorism, human rights and reconciliation. On December 13, 2008, Goldberg guest starred on The Naked Brothers Band, a Nickelodeon rock- mockumentary television show. Before the episode premiered, on February 18, 2008, the band performed on The View and the band members were interviewed by Goldberg and Sherri Shepherd.

On December 18 through 20, 2009, Goldberg performed in the Candlelight Processional at Epcot in Walt Disney World. She was given a standing ovation during her final performance for her reading of the Christmas story and her tribute to the guest choirs performing in the show with her.[citation needed] She also makes a guest appearance in Michael Jackson‘s short film for the single “Liberian Girl“.

On April 1, 2010, Goldberg joined Cyndi Lauper in the launch of her Give a Damn campaign to bring a wider awareness of discrimination of the LGBT community. The campaign is to bring straight people to ally with the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender community. Other names included in the campaign include Jason Mraz, Elton John, Judith Light, Cynthia Nixon, Kim Kardashian, Clay Aiken, Sharon Osbourne and Kelly Osbourne.[62] Goldberg’s high-profile support for LGBT rights and AIDS activism dates back to the 1987 March on Washington, where she was one of few celebrities participating.[63]’

There. Here is an entire life actually spent in activism, in one form or the other, ever using her acting talent for good use. And as the years pass, she keeps ever adding more…



9 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. donsalmon
    Nov 16, 2013 @ 14:27:04

    Bhaga I’d like to ask your advice.

    I love everything you write here. You seem to have a real ease in finding what I like to call “signs” or even better, “intimations” of deeper spiritual realities in the common culture.

    I’ve been interested in doing this for the last 4 decades. In a way, our entire book on yoga psychology was an attempt (an attempt that took over 5 years) to do this in terms of science and culture.

    I’ve just recently gotten back on auroconf (the elist for Mother and Sri Aurobindo) and am trying to talk about this – intimations of what Sri Aurobindo called “the coming of the subjective age”.

    There seems to be some resistance – I’m not sure I understand it, but as best as I can tell now, it seems to be a resistance to suggesting that there’s ANYTHING in the current culture that bears ANY resemblance to what Sri Aurobindo and Mother wrote about.

    I may be entirely wrong about this; it may just be my own misreading, but it does seem to be there, this resistance, as far as I can tell.

    I wonder if you’ve found this in Auroville or in the Ashram, and if so, how you deal with it (or just ignore it?)

    I find it almost amusing – to give one example of the exact opposite in Sri Aurobindo – in that very chapter, in “the Coming of the Subjective Age” he refers approvingly to movements in education taking place at the time of his writing – in the early 1900s, and if I’m not mistaken, one very specific reference (though he doesn’t actually use her name) to Maria Montessori.

    I love what you wrote about Ghost, and agree with your analysis. in fact, I think it bears quite a resemblance to what Mother and Sri Aurobindo wrote about the after death experience.

    So again, if you’ve had any sense of this resistance in the Integral yoga community to finding these hints or intimations of an emerging spiritual (or ‘subjective”) consciousness, and you have any thoughts or intuitions about how to respond, I’d love to hear from you.



    • Bhaga
      Nov 17, 2013 @ 13:14:29

      Yes, Don. I have had the very same unpleasant and disappointing experience that you have, alas. This is actually why I am doing my own blog separately, not as a member of any group formed around Sri Aurobindo and Mother’s teachings, because most of such groups basically keep quoting them, and them only, and that’s about it. To me it feels a bit too much like religion. I am a devotional person myself too, and there has been a time when I too was refusing with indignation to look at anything else than Sri Aurobindo and Mother’s texts, so I understand to a certain extent and certainly don’t judge those other disciples/devotees, but I have come since then to realize that at least for me that narrow attitude was a mistake. This is why now in order to be able to present also to the visitors of my blog other inpirational writings, or anything else like films etc that I feel are relevant and helpful, I go it alone, without needing anybody else’s approval but that of my own consciousness and sincerity. Like that I also avoid involving anyone else’s responsibility but my own for the contents of my blog.
      I hope this answers your question? .



  2. dykewriter
    Nov 16, 2013 @ 16:38:01

    she used to be one of my inspirations
    when I was an activist



  3. dykewriter
    Nov 16, 2013 @ 20:20:20

    apparently, you are ahead of the zietgeist today!

    I just saw this on facebook, but had trouble tagging you

    so came here to share




    • Bhaga
      Nov 17, 2013 @ 16:08:42

      Thank you so much for putting that link here! After watching that video (actually two times immediately…) I shared it on Facebook first, and then put the link again on my blog here, but on a separate post so that people don’t miss it here as a comment.
      I’m just so happy!!!



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