Actor Samuel L. Jackson Avenged Apartheid, Now Helps Kids
A former member of the Black Power movement, and an usher at the funeral of the slain Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., actor Samuel L. Jackson has long been involved with Los Angeles-based Artists For A New South Africa (ANSA), a non-profit organization whose original mission was to end the white apartheid regime, but now tackles AIDS/HIV and various medical and rights issues in Africa and the U.S., particularly for children.
"We have AIDS initiatives and we dig wells for kids and families who have to travel long distances to get water and we build schools," Jackson tells Samaritanmag.
The 63-year-old Avengers star has made several trips to Africa to inspect ANSA's work and challenges. On his most recent trip to South Africa last August, he discovered, "a village with basically no adults, because of AIDS, a situation where food and caregivers have to be brought in."
According to ANSA's web site, Artists for a New South Africa works in the U.S. and South Africa "to combat HIV/AIDS, assist children orphaned by the disease, advance human and civil rights, educate and empower youth, and build bonds between our nations through arts, culture, and our shared pursuit of social justice."
ANSA's key accomplishments include raising more than $9 million for effective African nonprofits; the shipment of more than 70 tons of medical supplies and books to impoverished communities; and, since 2005, providing ongoing comprehensive care and services to more than 3,500 AIDS orphans and vulnerable children in South Africa, and is working on scaling up efforts to reach more of the country's three million orphans.
Jackson was one of the original members of Artists For A New South Africa, which formed in 1989 to bring noted members of the arts and entertainment community into the campaign to end apartheid and free the long-imprisoned African National Congress leader Nelson Mandela.
ANSA saw its goals become reality with surprising speed. Mandela was released from prison in 1990, and became president of the post-apartheid nation in 1994.
Jackson clearly recalls the racist environment in which he eventually carved out a remarkable career and became one of the top grossing film actors.
"I grew up in the era of segregation so I didn't see black people in comic books," Jackson says of his childhood in Chattanooga, Tenn. "The only black people in the movies were Sidney Poitier and Harry Belafonte. And there was (the butler) Rochester on Jack Benny."
So when Jackson found himself part of the cultural and image change on North American screens, it was natural that he'd lend his name and reputation to battling segregation under another name - apartheid.
On the homefront, Jackson likes to mix the business of life-saving fundraising with his passion for golf. There is currently an online auction at CharityFolks.com for a round for the winning bidder and two friends with the actor at L.A.'s MountainGate Country Club. Bidding opens at $5000 and closes on May 9 at 4 p.m. EST. Proceeds go to ANSA.
"The only way I know to do my part and make the world a better place is to start with the little people, the children of the world, and let them know somebody cares about them," Jackson says. "So they grow up and think, 'Somebody cared for me so I'll care about somebody else.'
"I just don't want to blow my trumpet and say, 'Yes, I'm a great philanthropist.' It's the way my parents and grandparents raised me. If you're well off enough to help someone else out, then you should do it."
* Samaritanmag.com is an online magazine covering the good deeds of individuals, charities and businesses.