Harry Belafonte, known as the "The King of Calypso," was born to Jamaican immigrants in Harlem, 1927. Belafonte, who brought the world the "Banana Boat Song (Day O)," was a highly successful musician and actor with significant involvement in the Civil Rights Movement. As noted by Stanford.edu, the late Corretta Scott King had this to say in her autobiography of Belafonte's involvement with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s efforts:
"Whenever we got into trouble or when tragedy struck, Harry has always come to our aid, his generous heart wide open."
Belafonte used his influence as an entertainer to evoke change for the Civil Rights Movement. Today, the 88-year-old activist shares his insight on the social unrest in the U.S, in light of recent tragedies like the mysterious death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray of Baltimore.
Belafonte joined an approximate 1,000-participant telephone conference of community leaders and activists around the country, The Root reported.
Susan L. Taylor, the founder and CEO of the National CARES Mentoring Movement, and former editor-in-chief of Essence Magazine, kicked off the conversation addressing Belafonte.
"Mr. B., you've been Grammyed and Tonyed and Emmyed and also Jim Crowed," Taylor said. "Blacklisted by Hollywood, harassed by the House Committee on Un-American Activity, spied on by the FBI, threatened by the [Ku Klux] Klan, state troopers, the Las Vegas Mafia bosses and you're still standing strongly."
Below are just a few of Belafonte's responses on how to make a better tomorrow:
— "...Most of us still could not vote, most of us were still governed by segregationist laws so activated that black men were being lynched all over America, being lynched in our cities, North and South, yet there were never any statistics about that. This mayhem that we're experiencing in Ferguson and Baltimore today, is only a numerical query, it is not a query of the facts of it because the facts have always been there."
— "Women are at the forefront. They play a huge role. They make it uncomfortable for the rest of us because that is what they have to do, that's what they should do. And when they stop making it uncomfortable for the rest of us, we'll go back to our comfort zones. ... Women hold an unusual tool in the sea of our culture. Women have the power to stop the universe, while men can merely dream about it."
— "I don't know if we can afford the luxury of exhaustion [with injustice]. I don't know if we can afford the luxury of being untouched [by injustice]."
Listen to the full telephone town hall sponsored by the National Cares Mentoring Movement below.
(H/T: The Root)
Cover photo courtesy of Manfred Werner.