Friday, October 10, 2008

Dedicated to Change: Kerry Washington

It's refreshing to read this article about Kerry Washington because she is doing much more than just being a celebrity.


Hollywood Star Combines Her Love For Acting With Activism

by Marti Parham, Jet Magazine (condensed)

Unlike some movie stars, driving a luxury car isn't important to actress Kerry Washington. She'd rather help sustain the planet by getting around in her eco-friendly hybrid, a Toyota Prius.

But Washington, co-star of the new movie Lakeview Terrace, which debut in theaters at No. 1, does care abut being socially responsible, and her off-screen commitment to environmental, political and social causes is as dynamic as her performances in nearly 30 movies.

"I'm not afraid of terms like activist or humanist or womanist. I'm honored to be associated with those words," she says. But, "when I exercise my right to free speech, I don't do it as an activist, I do it as a responsible American."

Washington's life also reflects her concern for humanity. She's raised money to help stop violence against women, lobbied Congress for more arts funding and campaigned for Democratic Presidential candidate Barack Obama.

She joined the V-Day movement, an organization against women's abuse, after seeing a production of Eve Ensler's award-wining play Vagina Monologues. V-Day raises money through benefit performances of the Monologues for shelters and programs that assist women.

"It's very rare that we meet somebody who is not the survivor of abuse or doesn't know someone who is, be it physical or mental," says Washington, who is now a V-Day board member. "I think there are very few of us who are unaffected by violence against women."

Ensler, who has known the actress since 2002, applauds her hard work. "As a board member she's been an incredible advocate and has changed consciousness, given speeches, raised money and has just brought this movement into all kinds of new places."

In April, Washington spoke on Capitol Hill as a member of the Hollywood lobbying group the Creative Coalition, which asked a House committee for higher funding for the National Endowment for the arts.

"I'm really grateful for how much I've benefited from the arts and arts education. The impact that that's had on my life is huge," says the actress who, as a youth, participated in a children's arts program. "I understand how important arts are to our economy, to our communities and to our souls as human beings to maintain our culture. It's just something I'm really passionate about."

Politics are also a passion of this native of The Bronx, New York. After hearing Sen. Barack Obama speak at the Kodak Theatre in Los Angeles, she become one of his biggest supporters, visiting nine states and speaking in several cities on the presidential hopeful's behalf.

"I was really moved. Not just by his speech, but by who was in the audience. I was really blown away by the diversity in his support. I saw that this is a person who really could bring this country together and cross all types of lines.

"I went backstage, met a bunch of people from the campaign and I said, 'I'd like o be involved. As involved as you guys would like for me to be." That's kind of how it took off."

Her mother, Valerie, says Kerry tackled social issues such as AIDS, safe sex and drug abuse during theater productions during her adolescent years in theater.

"Activism is not new to Kerry," the retired professor says abut her daughter. "...It's not surprising that these issues continue to drive her activism along with racial and gender equality and access issues. Her activism is grounding and rewarding."

For the George Washington University grad who holds a degree in Performance Studies, acting will always be her first love. But I still have more that I want to do, be, say and experience.

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