Academy Award-winning actor Louis Gossett Jr. (left) joined Colette Phillips, president and CEO of Colette Phillips Communications (center) and Boston City Council President Maureen Feeney at last Tuesday’s “Get Konnected” multicultural social networking event. While in town, Gossett threw out the first pitch at a Red Sox game. (Don West photo)
Hollywood legend and social activist Louis Gossett Jr. dazzled attendees at last week’s “Get Konnected” social networking event held at Hampshire House with his thoughts on diversity and the changing political climate in America.
Public relations executive Colette Phillips, host of the monthly event bringing together multicultural professionals, said that the Academy Award-winning actor exemplifies everything she would like to see Americans do to make the world a better place.
“Lou works tirelessly to fight injustices in our communities,” she said. “He is working to bring us together.”
With an acting career spanning over five decades in film, television and theater, Gossett is perhaps best known for his roles as Fiddler in the groundbreaking television miniseries “Roots” and as Gunnery Sgt. Emil Foley in the 1982 film “An Officer and a Gentleman.” The former earned him an Emmy; the latter, an Oscar.
In 2006, Gossett decided to focus his energies on fighting social ills when he founded The Eracism Foundation, a nonprofit organization designed to create a “conscious offensive against racism, violence and ignorance.” Toward that end, the foundation has created programs focused on youth mentoring, anti-gang violence initiatives and diversity sensitivity training sessions known as “Shamba Centers.”
While the Eracism organization’s work is part of the solution, Gossett said, there is much more work to be done — and he thinks the classroom is a good place to start.
“When I was growing up, I learned about Caesar and Alexander the Great,” he said. “But there was nothing about the Tuskegee Airmen and the Buffalo Soldiers. And there hasn’t been much change in creating more diverse school agendas today. We shouldn’t pass on educating our children.”
The actor also said he feels the entertainment industry needs to better and more accurately reflect the country’s shifting, multicultural landscape.
The U.S. Census Bureau announced last month that racial minorities will have surpassed whites as America’s majority by 2042, eight years sooner than expected. But representations on network television don’t necessarily reflect the color change; according to a recent survey conducted by the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, people of color comprise only 24 percent of regular series characters on NBC’s 2008-09 broadcast slate, 21 percent each on ABC and Fox, 20 percent on The CW, and 19 percent on CBS.
As for presidential politics, Gossett said he will not tell anyone who to vote for, but rather hopes all Americans will vote and think about this country’s place in the world.
“The world is in trouble,” he said. “We have hurricanes and tornadoes and bacteria in our food. If we are going to talk democracy abroad, maybe we should take care of home first.”
But fighting all forms of bigotry is at the top of his agenda.
“Enough,” he exclaimed. “We are a diverse country now; let’s act like one.”
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