Actor and political activist Danny Glover told a throng of students and city residents gathered in the African-American Cultural House on Monday night that, in a critical time for cities across America, Henry Fernandez LAW ’94 is their best bet for mayor of New Haven.
Fernandez is running in a four-way race to replace retiring New Haven Mayor John DeStefano Jr. In a week, he will face off in a Democratic primary against Connecticut State Sen. Toni Harp ARC ’78, Ward 10 Alderman Justin Elicker FES ’10 SOM ’10 and Hillhouse High School Principal Kermit Carolina.
Monday’s event was the latest in a series of outreach efforts Fernandez has been conducting on Yale’s campus. On Thursday, he canvassed students on Cross Campus, followed by an appearance on Sunday at the extracurricular bazaar in Payne Whitney Gymnasium, an opportunity Elicker also used to speak with student voters.
“I’m sitting right here with the next mayor of New Haven,” said Glover, who is widely known for his roles in “The Color Purple,” “Predator 2” and the “Lethal Weapon” franchise.
In addition to his acting work, Glover has long been involved politically as an activist. He has spoken in support of the labor movement, condemned the war in Iraq and aligned himself with occupy encampments nationwide.
Glover first met Fernandez through the mayoral candidate’s wife, Kica Matos, who worked with the actor on anti-capital punishment campaigns. Glover’s presence in Connecticut city and state politics dates back to 2006, when Fernandez, who was working as the city’s economic development administrator, convinced him to endorse DeStefano’s gubernatorial bid.
Glover said he is supporting Fernandez because of the candidate’s history with student activism and his ability to actuate the potential of young people and other city residents to create positive change in city government.
“This is a transformative moment for our cities,” Glover said. “What is important is that we develop and elevate new leadership: young people like Henry Fernandez or young people like you in the audience.”
Both Glover and Fernandez encouraged audience members to become active in their communities and to unite behind progressive causes.
“There has never been a struggle in America that did not start with young people,” Fernandez said. “I hope you see your time here as an opportunity to change the world.”
Fernandez said his experiences growing up in relative poverty in New York and going on to receive two Ivy League degrees imbued him with a “sense of obligation and commitment to people who are struggling.”
He said he is running to make “big changes here,” changes that will put to bed the “myth that cities like New Haven are ungovernable.”
“This is the most important election in a generation,” he said. “New Haven is really on a precipice.”
He said that only by reinvesting in education and economic development and by reducing crime can New Haven avoid “fall[ing] off the table.”
Students who attended the event said they did so primarily to see Glover, but added that they were inspired by the two speakers’ call to action.
Shoshana Davidoff-Gore ’17 said she sees New Haven’s problems as parallel to the problems facing the city of Baltimore, her hometown. Despite Fernandez’s appeal to register to vote in New Haven, Davidoff-Gore said she would remain registered in Baltimore.
Venetia Ginakakis ’14 said she is registered to vote in New Haven but is not yet persuaded to vote for Fernandez.
“I’ll have to look into the other candidates,” she said.
The Democratic Primary is on Sept. 10.