By Chiara Spagnoli Gabardi
Depending on your age, you may have first seen the talented Morgan Freeman when you were a wee one: the actor was the rather groovy ‘Easy Reader’ on the dearly loved kids’ show ‘The Electric Company’. Since then, his career moved on from teaching kids numeracy and reading to collecting Oscar nominations — as supporting actor for Street Smart and leading actor for Driving Miss Daisy and The Shawshank Redemption — and won the Academy Award for his performance in Million Dollar Baby in 2005.
Despite the Hollywood razzle dazzle, the down-to-earth Freeman has always been very attached to his own roots and those of Mother Nature. The PBS television miniseries ‘African American Lives’ revealed that the actor’s ancestors were slaves who migrated from North Carolina to Mississippi and that he descends in part from the Songhai and Tuareg people of Niger. So no wonder that Freeman has been a strong advocate against racism, for instance by supporting the proposal to change the Mississippi state flag, which contains the Confederate battle flag. And surely we all remember how he majestically embodied Nelson Mandela in Clint Eastwood’s Invictus.
Morgan Freeman’s acting talent is very much connected to his distinctive voice, which has made him a frequent choice for narration, such as War of the Worlds and the Academy-Award winning documentary March of the Penguins. His love for nature, science and our planet have also led him to lend his voice to projects such as Through the Wormhole, the American science documentary television series that explores our existence on Earth and the mysteries of the universe.
Freeman has used his voice talent also to support global organisations, such as One Earth — whose goals include raising awareness of environmental issues — by narrating the clip Why Are We Here, as well as the inspirational What’s Possible, a short film on climate change which was presented at the 2014 UN Climate Summit in New York. The film provides details of and solutions for the global threats presented by climate change and calls on all world citizens and leaders to act now to make behavioural changes to stop it.
Freeman is equally concerned about our flora and fauna and has been engaged in initiatives that focus on the well-being of both humans and animals. He has been very active in charitable work ever since 2004, when he took part in the foundation of PLANIT NOW, the Grenada Relief Fund, to help people affected by Hurricane Ivan on the ‘Island of Spice.’ His love for animals is attested by his donations to the Mississippi Horse Park in Starkville, which is where he takes his very own horses for a ride.
But most recently what grabbed the media’s attention is Freeman’s concern towards bees. the fact that bees are dying off in swarms (literally), thanks to neonicotinoid pesticides used in the USA, Canada and a few other countries motivated the actor to convert his 124 acre ranch in Mississippi into a bee refuge. He installed bee friendly plants like fruit trees and clover, magnolia trees and lavender and explained, on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, why if the bees die, we all die.
He may have got his start as a funky teacher of the 3Rs on the Electric Company, but for many of us, Morgan Freeman has also taught us a bit about physics, time, and how to care for our planet better, too.