• Golden Globe Awards

Out of the Archives: Alfre Woodard on Apartheid

Alfre Woodard spoke to the journalists of the Hollywood Foreign Press in 1992 and 1993 about Bopha!, directed by Morgan Freeman, where she played the wife of a Black policeman (Danny Glover) in South Africa during apartheid. Bopha is a Zulu word meaning arrest, imprison.
“We shot in the beautiful town of Harare in the incredible country of Zimbabwe, it was my second time there, after playing Winnie Mandela with Danny Glover as Nelson Mandela in the 1987 HBO movie. I went to Jo’burg for four days to meet some policemen’s wives, ask them about their lives, listen to their stories.”
“We all know that apartheid is wrong and that it kills, we see the statistics, but the way it affects society is that it tears apart each family one by one. I play the mother stuck between my loyalty to my husband and my unconditional love for my son, because, unknown to his father, he has become one of the student leaders protesting against apartheid, demanding to be taught in English, not Afrikaans.”
“You wonder how apartheid has held so long all these years. If there’s 27 million people of color and 3 million Whites, why don’t the people of color just don’t obey the laws? There’s not enough people to enforce them. What we haven’t seen about South Africa is how the police force is predominantly Black, so what are those people thinking? What do you have to do to convince yourself to be a part of the oppression?”
“When it comes to Zimbabwe and to South Africa, everybody talks about race, but race is something that people who have big money use to keep everybody preoccupied, so they don’t know who really has power. There’s rich Black people and White people with money in the hierarchy, while the majority of the people are still poor. It’s to their advantage to keep us all squabbling about race because none of us will pay attention to the fact that it is a class society. All the societies in the world are about class, and once people stop bickering about race, they will turn to the people with power, who control the economic systems and keep everybody in place and say ‘This system should run better. We should have health care.’ That’s what people in my country are finally saying because health care has gotten so outrageously expensive. It is either about race or religion when you’ve got to keep the masses busy hating each other, so they don’t realize what is being denied to them all.”
“You have to learn to identify evil and wrong and call it what it is, but I’m not so misguided to label everything evil in that same color. It takes intelligence and that comes from my parents. My mother is from Texas, my father is from Oklahoma and they lived among some vicious, awful deeds by White people, so it’s not like they were raised in some cocoon. And I learned from them to identify each person by his own deeds, that is the true test.”
“I always love going to Africa. There is something about the pull of the land that is stronger than anywhere that I’ve ever been, and I think it’s because, if we are to believe that all life originated in Africa, from everything we’ve learned archaeologically, there’s something inside all of us, not just Black Americans, so everybody goes home to Africa.”