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HARRY BELAFONTE: A Champion of Civil, Social & Humanitarian Rights, Equality, and Democratic Socialism for Seven Decades by Lisa Pacino

In our most recent article on Harry Belafonte, Legends Sidney Poitier and Harry Belafonte Turn 90 as They Approach 7 Decades of Friendship, we stated “another article will be dedicated solely to Mr. Belefonte’s causes and movements.” Here’s a more comprehensive look at the contributions and accomplishments of the great Mr. Harry Belafonte, and although this too is incomplete, it gives a greater understanding of the magnitude of his dedication and work for which we should be forever grateful for.

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Harry Belafonte. Photograph by Lisa Pacino.

Harry Belafonte was an early supporter of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s and 1960s, and one of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s confidants. Throughout his career he has been an advocate for political and humanitarian causes, such as the anti-apartheid movement and USA for Africa. Since 1987 he has been a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador. In recent years he has been a vocal critic of the policies of both the President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama presidential administrations. Harry Belafonte now acts as the American Civil Liberties Union celebrity ambassador for juvenile justice issues. Belafonte has won three Grammy Awards, including a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, an Emmy Award, and a Tony Award. In 1989 he received the Kennedy Center Honors. He was awarded the National Medal of Arts in 1994. In 2014, he received the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award at the Academy’s 6th Annual Governors Awards. In March 2014, he was awarded an honorary doctorate from Berklee College of Music in Boston. Belafonte’s political beliefs were greatly inspired by the singer, actor and Socialist activist Paul Robeson, who mentored him. Robeson opposed not only racial prejudice in the United States, but also western colonialism in Africa.
Belafonte’s success did not protect him from criticism of his communist/socialist sympathies or from racial discrimination, particularly in the American South. He refused to perform there from 1954 until 1961. In 1960 he appeared in a campaign commercial for Democratic Presidential candidate John F. Kennedy. Kennedy later named Belafonte cultural advisor to the Peace Corps. Belafonte gave the keynote address at the ACLU of Northern California’s annual Bill of Rights Day Celebration In December 2007 and was awarded the Chief Justice Earl Warren Civil Liberties Award. The 2011 Sundance Film Festival featured the documentary film Sing Your Song, a biographical film focusing on Belafonte’s contribution to and his leadership in the civil rights movement in America and his endeavours to promote social justice globally. In 2011, Belafonte’s memoir My Song was published by Knopf Books. Belafonte supported the Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s and 1960s and was one of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s confidants. He provided for King’s family, since King made only $8,000 a year as a preacher. Like many other civil rights activists, Belafonte was blacklisted during the McCarthy era. During the 1963 Birmingham Campaign he bailed King out of Birmingham City Jail and raised thousands of dollars to release other civil rights protesters. He financed the 1961 Freedom Rides, supported voter registration drives, and helped to organize the 1963 March on Washington. During the Mississippi Freedom Summer” of 1964 Belafonte bankrolled the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, flying to Mississippi that August with Sidney Poitier and $60,000 in cash and entertaining crowds in Greenwood. In 1968 Belafonte appeared on a Petula Clark primetime television special on NBC. In the middle of a duet of On the Path of Glory, Clark smiled and briefly touched Belafonte’s arm, which prompted complaints from Doyle Lott, the advertising manager of the show’s sponsor, Plymouth Motors. Lott wanted to retape the segment, but Clark, who had ownership of the special, told NBC that the performance would be shown intact or she would not allow the special to be aired at all. Newspapers reported the controversy, Lott was relieved of his responsibilities, and when the special aired, it attracted high ratings. Belafonte appeared on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour on September 29, 1968, performing a controversial “Mardi Gras” number intercut with footage from the 1968 Democratic National Convention riots. CBS censors deleted the segment. The full unedited content were broadcast in 1993 as part of a complete Smothers Brothers Hour syndication package.
In 1985, he helped organize the Grammy Award-winning song “We Are the World”, a multi-artist effort to raise funds for Africa. He performed in the Live Aid concert that same year. In 1987, he received an appointment to UNICEF as a goodwill ambassador. Following his appointment Belafonte traveled to Dakar, Senegal, where he served as chairman of the International Symposium of Artists and Intellectuals for African Children. He also helped to raise funds—alongside more than 20 other artists—in the largest concert ever held in sub-Saharan Africa. In 1994, he went on a mission to Rwanda and launched a media campaign to raise awareness of the needs of Rwandan children. In 2001, he went to South Africa to support the campaign against HIV/AIDS. In 2002, Africare awarded him the Bishop John T. Walker Distinguished Humanitarian Service Award for his efforts to assist Africa. In 2004, Belafonte went to Kenya to stress the importance of educating children in the region. Belafonte has been involved in prostate cancer advocacy since 1996, when he was diagnosed and successfully treated for the disease. On June 27, 2006, Belafonte was the recipient of the BET Humanitarian Award at the 2006 BET Awards. He was named one of nine 2006 Impact Award recipients by AARP The Magazine.
On October 19, 2007, Belafonte represented UNICEF on Norwegian television to support the annual telethon (TV Aksjonen) in support of that charity and helped raise a world record of $10 per inhabitant of Norway. Belafonte was also an ambassador for the Bahamas. He is on the board of directors of the Advancement Project. He also serves on the Advisory Council of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation. Belafonte has been a longtime critic of U.S. foreign policy. He began making controversial political statements on this subject in the early 1980s. He has at various times made statements opposing the U.S. embargo on Cuba; praising Soviet peace initiatives; attacking the U.S. invasion of Grenada; praising the Abraham Lincoln Brigade; honoring Ethel and Julius Rosenberg and praising Fidel Castro. Belafonte is additionally known for his visit to Cuba which helped ensure hip-hop’s place in Cuban society. According to Geoffrey Baker’s article “Hip hop, Revolucion! Nationalizing Rap in Cuba”, in 1999 Belafonte met with representatives of the rap community immediately before meeting with Fidel Castro. This meeting resulted in Castro’s personal approval of, and hence the government’s involvement in, the incorporation of rap into his country’s culture. In a 2003 interview, Belafonte reflected upon this meeting’s influence: “When I went back to Havana a couple years later, the people in the hip-hop community came to see me and we hung out for a bit. They thanked me profusely and I said, ‘Why?’ and they said, ‘Because your little conversation with Fidel and the Minister of Culture on hip-hop led to there being a special division within the ministry and we’ve got our own studio’.” Belafonte was active in the anti-apartheid movement. He was the Master of Ceremonies at a reception honoring African National Congress President Oliver Tambo at Roosevelt House, Hunter College, in New York City. The reception was held by the American Committee on Africa (ACOA) and The Africa Fund. He is a current board member of the TransAfrica Forum and the Institute for Policy Studies.
Belafonte achieved widespread attention for his political views in 2002 when he began making a series of comments about President George W. Bush, his administration and the Iraq War. During an interview with Ted Leitner for San Diego’s 760 KFMB, in October 2002, Belafonte referred to a quote made by Malcolm X. Belafonte said: There is an old saying, in the days of slavery. There were those slaves who lived on the plantation, and there were those slaves who lived in the house. You got the privilege of living in the house if you served the master, do exactly the way the master intended to have you serve him. That gave you privilege. Colin Powell is committed to come into the house of the master, as long as he would serve the master, according to the master’s purpose. And when Colin Powell dares to suggest something other than what the master wants to hear, he will be turned back out to pasture. And you don’t hear much from those who live in the pasture. Belafonte used the quote to characterize former United States Secretaries of State Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice, both African Americans. Powell and Rice both responded, with Powell calling the remarks “unfortunate” and Rice saying: “I don’t need Harry Belafonte to tell me what it means to be black.” The comment was brought up again in an interview with Amy Goodman for Democracy Now! in 2006.
In January 2006, Belafonte led a delegation of activists including actor Danny Glover and activist/professor Dr. Cornel West to meet with President of Venezuela Hugo Chávez. In 2005 Chávez, an outspoken Bush critic, initiated a program to provide cheaper heating oil for poor people in several areas of the United States. Belafonte supported this initiative. He was quoted as saying, during the meeting with Chávez, “No matter what the greatest tyrant in the world, the greatest terrorist in the world, George W. Bush says, we’re here to tell you: Not hundreds, not thousands, but millions of the American people support your revolution.” Belafonte and Glover met again with Chávez in 2006. The comment ignited a great deal of controversy. Hillary Clinton refused to acknowledge Belafonte’s presence at an awards ceremony that featured both of them. AARP, which had just named him one of its 10 Impact Award honorees 2006, released this statement following the remarks: “AARP does not condone the manner and tone which he has chosen and finds his comments completely unacceptable.” During a Martin Luther King, Jr. Day speech at Duke University in 2006, Belafonte compared the American government to the hijackers of the September 11 attacks, saying: “What is the difference between that terrorist and other terrorists?” In response to criticism about his remarks Belafonte asked, “What do you call Bush when the war he put us in to date has killed almost as many Americans as died on 9/11 and the number of Americans wounded in war is almost triple? By most definitions Bush can be considered a terrorist.” When he was asked about his expectation of criticism for his remarks on the war in Iraq, Belafonte responded: “Bring it on. Dissent is central to any democracy.” In another interview Belafonte remarked that while his comments may have been “hasty”, nevertheless he felt the Bush administration suffered from “arrogance wedded to ignorance” and its policies around the world were “morally bankrupt”. In January 2006, in a speech to the annual meeting of the Arts Presenters Members Conference, Belafonte referred to “the new Gestapo of Homeland Security” saying, “You can be arrested and have no right to counsel!” During the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day speech at Duke University in January 2006, Belafonte said that if he could choose his epitaph it would be, “Harry Belafonte, Patriot.” In 2004, he was awarded the Domestic Human Rights Award in San Francisco by Global Exchange.
In 2011, he commented on the Obama administration and the role of popular opinion in shaping its policies. “I think [Obama] plays the game that he plays because he sees no threat from evidencing concerns for the poor.” On December 9, 2012, in an interview with Al Sharpton on MSNBC, Belafonte expressed dismay that many political leaders in the United States continue to oppose the policies of President Obama even after his re-election: “The only thing left for Barack Obama to do is to work like a third-world dictator and just put all of these guys in jail. You’re violating the American desire.” On February 1, 2013, Belafonte received the NAACP’s Spingarn Medal, and in the televised ceremony, he counted Constance L. Rice among those previous recipients of the award whom he regarded highly for speaking up “to remedy the ills of the nation”. In 2013, he was named a Grand Marshal of the New York City Gay Pride Parade, alongside Edie Windsor and Earl Fowlkes. In 2016, Belafonte was a surrogate for and endorsed Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders for the Democratic Primary, saying “I think he represents opportunity, I think he represents a moral imperative, I think he represents a certain kind of truth that’s not often evidenced in the course of politics”. Belafonte is an honorary co-chair of the Women’s March on Washington, which took place on January 21, 2017, the day after the inauguration of Donald Trump as President. Belafonte still continues to support Senator Bernie Sanders.
In 2012, he founded the non-profit organization Sankofa.org with his daughter Gina Belafonte. The organization fights racial injustice and elevates the voices of the disenfranchised, promoting peace and equality. Their annual event is the Many Rivers to Cross Festival.

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Harry Belafonte was born Harold George Bellanfanti, Jr. in Harlem, New York on March 1, 1927. He is a singer, songwriter, actor, author, humanitarian, and social activist. history show, if it was not for Mr. Belafonte, Dr. King’s March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom and his “I Have A Dream” speech may not have ever been televised, nor be as we know it today. It was Mr. Belafonte who convinced studio executives in Hollywood to stop filming for a day so Hollywood celebrities could attend the rally in Washington D.C. on August 28, 1963. He brought together countless friends and colleagues; Marlon Brando, Diahann Carroll, Eartha Kitt, Paul Newman, Sammy Davis, Jr., James Garner, James Baldwin, Charlton Heston, Sidney Poitier, and more who flew to join Mahalia Jackson and others in D.C.; thus complete media coverage was given.

Please visit over two dozen photo-article featuring Mr. Harry Belafonte including: Legends Sidney Poitier and Harry Belafonte Turn 90 as They Approach 7 Decades of Friendship.

https://undertheduvetproductions.wordpress.com/2017/02/19/legends-sidney-poitier-and-harry-belafonte-turn-90-as-they-approach-7-decades-of-friendship-by-photojournalist-lisa-pacino/

Please visit over two dozen photo-article featuring Mr. Harry Belafonte including: HARRY BELAFONTE Receives New York Public Library (NYPL) Harlem Branch Named in His Honor 2017.

https://undertheduvetproductions.wordpress.com/2017/02/14/harry-belafonte-receives-new-york-public-library-nypl-harlem-branch-named-in-his-honor-2017-by-photojournalist-lisa-pacino/

Please visit over two dozen photo-article featuring Mr. Harry Belafonte including: Children’s Health Fund honoring Harry Belafonte presented by Morgan Freeman.

https://undertheduvetproductions.wordpress.com/2016/06/09/childrens-health-fund-honoring-harry-belafonte-presented-by-morgan-freeman-by-photojournalist-lisa-pacino/

Lisa Pacino and Under The Duvet Productions are based in New York. Photography services are available worldwide. If you wish to book photography services, receive information, and/or license images for commercial and/or promotional use please E-mail: UnderTheDuvetProductions@gmail.com

Please visit our On-Line Magazine with over 350 articles:
https://undertheduvetproductions.wordpress.com/

Website:

http://lisapacino.smugmug.com/

Bio Source: Wikipedia, and various
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One comment on “HARRY BELAFONTE: A Champion of Civil, Social & Humanitarian Rights, Equality, and Democratic Socialism for Seven Decades by Lisa Pacino

  1. Pingback: The Legacy of Harry Belafonte: When Colors Come Together 2017 by Photojournalist Lisa Pacino | Under The Duvet Productions

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This entry was posted on March 5, 2017 by in Academy Awards, activism, Awards, Backstage, Bernie Sanders, Black Broadway, Black History, Black Hollywood, Black Tie Events, Books, Broadway, Canon, Canon Camera, CD/Book: Release/Signings, Celebrities, Celebrity Photojournalist, Civil Rights, Concerts, Emmy Awards, Film Premiers, Grammy Awards, History, Lisa Pacino, Literature & Lectures, Music, New York, News & Civil Rights, Photography, Red Carpet, Theatre, Theatre (Broadway & Off-Broadway), Tony Awards, Under The Duvet Productions and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , .
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