“A tree is best measured when it is down,” the poet Carl Sandburg once observed, “and so it is with people.” The recent death of Harry Belafonte at the age of 96 has prompted many assessments of what this pioneering singer-actor-activist accomplished in a long and fruitful life.
Belafonte’s career as a ground-breaking entertainer brought him substantial wealth and fame; according to Playbill magazine, “By 1959, he was the highest paid Black entertainer in the industry, appearing in raucously successful engagements in Las Vegas, New York, and Los Angeles.” He scored on Broadway, winning a 1954 Tony for Best Featured Actor in a Musical – John Murray Anderson's Almanac. Belafonte was the first Black person to win the prestigious award. A 1960 television special, “Tonight with Belafonte,” brought him an Emmy for Outstanding Performance in a Variety or Musical Program or Series, making him the first Black person to win that award. He found equal success in the recording studio, bringing Calypso music to the masses via such hits as “Day-O (The Banana Boat Song)” and “Jamaica Farewell.”
Harry Belafonte - Day-O (The Banana Boat Song) (Live)www.youtube.com
Belafonte’s blockbuster stardom is all the more remarkable for happening in a world plagued by virulent systemic racism. Though he never stopped performing, by the early 1960s he’d shifted his energies to the nascent Civil Right movement. He was a friend and adviser to the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr. and, as the New York Times stated, Belafonte “put up much of the seed money to help start the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and was one of the principal fund-raisers for that organization and Dr. King’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference.”
The Southern Poverty Law Center notes that “he helped launch one of Mississippi’s first voter registration drives and provided funding for the Freedom Riders. His activism extended beyond the U.S. as he fought against apartheid alongside Nelson Mandela and Miriam Makeba, campaigned for Mandela’s release from prison, and advocated for famine relief in Africa.” And in 1987, he received an appointment to UNICEF as a goodwill ambassador.
Over a career spanning more than seventy years, Belafonte brought joy to millions of people. He also did something that is, perhaps, even greater: he fostered the hope that a better world for all could be created. And, by his example, demonstrated how we might go about bringing that world into existence.
The Attack on Capitol Hill Wasn't Black Americans' Fight
"President Kennedy never foresaw that the chickens would come home to roost so soon...Being an old farm boy myself, chickens coming home to roost never did make me sad; they always made me glad." -Malcolm X.
The attack on Capitol Hill was another example of how President Donald Trump has emboldened white supremacy. His term in office has given racism and fascism a bigger platform and an official advocate. He proved that, at his command, MAGA fanatics will assemble to do his bidding.
As the world watched the descent of democracy, many were appalled at the visual. This was an attempted coup two weeks before the inauguration of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. News outlets and politicians questioned how we, as a country, got to this point. But for Black Americans, this has always been our country.
The violence witnessed on Capitol Hill was a scene all too familiar for Black people. The difference was that we weren't the direct targets. Trump's base has antagonized and threatened violence against Black people while law enforcement abuses its power when interacting with us. The confrontation between the two entities responsible for our oppression was unexpected, but not surprising.
Many Trump supporters and members of law enforcement are cut from the same cloth. In fact, many members of law enforcement voted for him. Their belief in excessive force under the guise of law and order gives them what they feel is the right to harm anyone who goes against their authority. They are loyal to a flawed system and a man that keeps them in power and not to the country and its citizens seeking progress and peace.
Throughout this presidency, both sides have pledged their allegiance to each other. MAGA supporters have backed the Blue Lives Matter movement. Police officers have demonstrated leniency when dealing with unruly Trump disciples at rallies and protests. Both believe they are the good guys trying to make things great again.
Black people have had to do battle with both. We've had to listen to the various lies spewed about the Black Lives Matter movement from supporters of the president while fighting police brutality daily. The assault on Blackness was a cause that unified them. Black people have warned the world of the dangers these factions were capable of for years. Those claims fell on deaf ears, until yesterday when they turned on one another.
For many Black Americans, yesterday was the manifestation of this country's inability to address domestic terrorism. Peaceful protests and resistance against police brutality are viewed in the same light as the insurrection. The anarchy and mayhem that GOP pundits accuse BLM of inciting was a direct order from their leader.
Their ignorance and arrogance gave them the courage to lay siege to a government building. But if angry Black protesters attempted the same actions, many lives would've been lost.
The same reason why the police routinely kill Black people is the same reason why the police are routinely unprepar… https://t.co/Rc3yWRZ2PA— Ibram X. Kendi (@Ibram X. Kendi) 1609964271
Suddenly, Trump supporters view themselves as oppressed. Their reign over the country is coming to a not so graceful end. Rather than humbly accepting defeat, they want to dismantle the establishment. The same establishment that helped empower them over the last four years.
Somehow this attack was yet another revelation for white Americans. Before Trump's election, the idea of police officers displaying a lack of regard for the lives of Black people was inconceivable to white Americans. The thought of parts of our government upholding systemic racism was unfathomable.
Last night, after a year of reckoning with the racism built into America's system, white Americans were forced to once again look at the enormous part white privilege plays in policing. But for Black people, it was simply a clear visual of America's decision on November 8, 2016, coming home to roost.
- Were Congressional Insiders Helping the Capitol Hill Attack? - Popdust ›
- How Martin Luther King Jr's Non-Violent Stance Was Weaponized - Popdust ›