Pam Grier on How The L Word Changed the World
BY Diane Anderson-Minshall
December 19 2011 4:56 PM ET
I remember how African-American queer women were so excited to see you in person as well as on the show.
I was invited to a wonderful, wonderful symposium in Las Vegas of African-American lesbian women. It was a community, it was an organization, very prolific, very successful, very informative — and it was so amazing that they could have this seminar and have a great retreat in Las Vegas. I know often in African-American communities ... they are still uncomfortable [with homosexuality] in many areas. I think they are more religious or old-school, if you will. Eventually, as Howard Zinn — the social activist, who was the first white professor at Spelman College, which was an African-American women's college — said in a statement that has always lingered with me, it is something very special, he said, “Small acts, multiplied by millions, can transform the world.”
That’s really resonant.
And it has been a part of my family’s mantra, small acts, and if The L Word in relative terms was a small act, look at the millions of people it reached. It’s playing in 20 some countries. I get emails from Finland, Brazil, from gay women who love The L Word. And my mom asks me, “Are you shocked if a lesbian woman gives you a compliment?” I'm like, “No, it’s flattering, can’t do much, but it’s flattering.”
It means you connected with lesbian viewers.
It’s the fact that we highlighted the life of many women, so other people can herald the greatness of people. That is why I had to be a part of it. And Jennifer Beals, my sistah, wanted me to play her sister in the show, and I am so grateful for that because I would not have known what I know. I’ve met so many incredible people who are my friends for life. And they still can’t adopt children, and they still can’t get insurance, and they still can’t buy a home comfortably, and there’s all these other ridiculous issues. And so with that, I thank Jennifer and Jerry and Showtime for allowing me to learn and be a beacon of knowledge and information for others who have no idea.
We’ve talked about how this show affected others. What type of impact has it had on you?
Oh the impact on me is still, oh, we won’t know. We won’t know because people on my Twitter page of half a million people still talk about The L Word, and it’s great because many of them are African-American. Back in the day we had church, we had no other form of social media, there was no lecture series, maybe a school somewhere, but we didn’t have what we have today. And thank God for it. Thank God for information and knowledge to break down barriers. Thank God one tweet can start a Wall Street protest. [Laughs]
Yes, the Occupy Wall Street movement really relied on social media.
But you know that's this country, and that's who we are — we want to do better, we want to be better as a community. I am still, as far as people when they come to sign autographs, they bring my book and three L Word sets. And many women ask, “Can I [get your autograph]?” Of course you can! One lady told me she had raised her children, she was a doctor, she was a single mom, and then she came out to her children and her children had a difficult time understanding it, so they abandoned her for a while. And maybe they will come around, maybe not all of them. But it is interesting, the forces of community and common sense and education and what it does. And I think eventually they will all come around and see that she is still mom. She still had three jobs and went to school and put us all through college. And just because she came out, she’s another person? So their dialogue is going to be amazing. And it is going to be very simple. They’re going to see how simple is that, how easy. And as people start realizing historically, the incredible people that were gay, you know, since a thousand years ago. You can go back. It’s all about education and information, and I think all the schools should have gay studies.
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