The world is still mourning the loss of activist, performer and icon Harry Belafonte who died at his New York City home April 25, 2023 at age 96. Belafonte was beloved for his immense talent and willingness to use his fame and platform to address issues of social justice including civil rights, ending Apartheid and USA for Africa. A confidante of slain civil rights lion Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and UNICEF ambassador from 1987 until the time of his death, Belafonte advocated for a variety of humanitarian causes.
A consummate singer and actor, Belafonte used his talents to further these causes in a myriad of ways including helping to orchestrate the “We are the world,” an artist collaboration to raise funds for USA for Africa to help end apartheid. The son of Jamaican immigrants, a fledgling singer, Belafonte’s fame grew following his portrayal of Joe in the iconic 1954 film, Carmen Jones, co-starring Dorothy Dandridge. Dandridge became the first African-American woman to be nominated for a Best Actress Academy Award in 1955. Belafonte rose to fame as a singer with the release of two albums on RCA Victor in 1956, Belafonte and Calypso, which helped popularize the style of music in the United States. His song, “The Banana Boat Song,” featuring the classic line, “Day-O” made the handsome Belafonte an international superstar.
Belafonte accomplished many things in his career that have been widely chronicled, but one of the things that makes him beloved to the global Black community is the use of his platform to bring awareness to causes that impacted our communities globally. An examples is the use of his appearance on, “The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour,” on September 19, 1968 to perform the song, “Don’t Stop the Carnival,” which is a political statement about the importance of the carnival festival, “a Creole bacchanal,” significant to the Black people of Trinidad. The performance was banned by CBS and the, “Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour,” which had been under fire for featuring anti-war artists like Joan Baez, Pete Seeger and Simon & Garfunkel, was cancelled the following year.
Check out Belafonte’s banned performance here, to get a small taste of who he was and how he used his talents, access and resources to shed light on important issues impacting global Black communities:
Harry Belanfonte was 96-years-old. Married three times, Mr. Belafonte is survived by his wife Pamela and four children Shari, David, Adrian and Gina. Rest in power.
Follow The Burton Wire on Twitter @BurtonWireNews