“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.
Blame It On Pluto: Finally, an explanation for all the WTF moments of the past decade
Could Pluto be to blame for our current era of upheaval?
If there's one word that describes the last ten years, it's disruption.
Consider the climate: The earth has experienced raging fires, drought, destructive floods, and hurricanes of unprecedented power, as well as earthquakes, mudslides, and record snowfall. And, according to a January 2, 2018 article in Newsweek, there are six active volcanoes across the globe that scientists are monitoring for possible cataclysmic eruptions. Politics: Well, you'd have to be living under a very large rock not to know that we are living in a time of tremendous political upheaval. Once relied upon ideologies, government institutions and accepted social norms have been whirled around faster than a max-extract spin cycle, if not destroyed outright. Russia influencing elections? Donald Trump is President of the United States? Culture: Between #MeToo and the relentless assault on women's reproductive rights, it feels like we're all over the place, like everything we know is changing, all the time. Some of these changes are hopeful; many are terrifying.
Why is so much happening at once? What gives?
Academics and economists point to the widening gap between rich and poor, the scarcity of resources, the stresses of living in a hyper-connected world, the growing numbers of disenfranchised people as well as the stress of climate change and the enormous amount of toxins in the air, earth and water as some of the potential causes of disruption. All of this may be true, but astrologists around the globe agree; if you want to know the root cause of all this disruption and destruction, look no further than 4.67 billion miles away, to Pluto.
Pluto was discovered in 1930 by astronomer Clyde Tombaugh.
It was named after the ancient Roman god of the underworld in a contest by Venetia Burney, an 11-year old English school-girl, and designated the ninth planet of our solar system. It had a nice run, until 2006 when Pluto was demoted to a dwarf planet by the International Astronomical Union because of its diminutive stature. Astrologists, however, continue to hold it in high esteem, recognizing Pluto as an extremely powerful force for us folks here on Earth.
Back in our day..Pluto was a planet! So much has changed...
Pluto, like the ancient god it is named for, represents death, destruction, rebirth and transformation.
Astrologers like to say that Pluto shines a light into the dark recesses of both our individual and collective conscience and demands that the truth be exposed. Pluto's awesome power is particularly evident when it enters into the astrological cycle of Capricorn, as it did in November 2008, the year that saw the U.S. election of the first black president as well as the duel implosions of the housing and financial markets. Capricorn is an earth sign that rules structure, government, monetary systems and tradition. Added to this heavenly hash, the planet Uranus (disruption and revolution) then entered into Aries (individual rights and liberty). Astrologers knew what was coming, warning that Pluto the destroyer would waste no time leveling Capricornian structures. As astrologist Rose Marcus explains, "When that which Capricorn has held in check…is released, it is done with great force. It can be radically so when extreme Uranus in Aries squares destructive Pluto in Capricorn.
This duo is most formidable, eruptive, disruptive, and explosive of all planetary combinations.
Beyond all levels of human existence, its life-altering reach is powerful enough to produce geophysical disturbances and earthquakes. The perilous years when the transit of Uranus in Aries squares Pluto in Capricorn are signature razor's edge times, when both life on the planet and the planet itself undergo major upheaval and critical transition. In addition to the progressive fall-out from global warming, our rage, anger, frustration, and aggression can heat to the boil-over point, the result of which can ignite a particularly merciless episode of man's crimes against man, and against humanity, too. Brutality, ruthlessness, violence, crime, sexual violation, murder, and war can run rampant in such desperate times."
But, say the skeptics, isn't this just coincidence? Perhaps, but take a look at how the so-called Pluto/Capricorn effect has lined up with major events in global history throughout the past centuries.
From 532-551, the world experienced what is known as the Dark Ages. Around 540, a huge volcanic eruption of the Rabaul Caldera caused a cataclysmic series of events. Culture collapsed and earth went into a deep freeze. Winter was coming, and it stayed --- for over two decades. The existing world structure of the Roman Empire fell and Barbarian hordes swept civilizations away.
The years 1517 to 1533, throughout the entire transit of Pluto in Capricorn, coincided with that sweeping and transformative era called The Reformation.
Martin Luther challenged the authority of the Catholic Church by nailing up his proclamation for all to see in 1517, ushering in radical religious and social upheaval. Not that far away, in good old England, Henry VIII established The Church of England, breaking with the Catholic Church to marry Anne Boleyn. This was also the period of the rise of the Spanish empire and the destruction of the Aztec and Incan empires.
The last time Pluto was in Capricorn was from 1762 to 1778.
The world saw the writing of The Declaration of Independence, and witnessed The American Revolution. The United States of America was born, and with it a new and enlightened form of government came on to the world stage. On a darker side, this period gave rise to the barbaric slave trade in Africa, which would eventually lead to the Civil War. In France, Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI came to the throne in 1770--and we all know how that ended.
There has been a tremendous amount of upheaval since Pluto once again entered into Capricorn in November, 2008, bringing us up to the present day and the election of Donald Trump. Once accepted social norms, like sexual harassment, are being turned on their heads and exposed for what they are. Yetothers, like open racism from our government officials and attacks on our system of justice, are being tolerated. With every day that passes, it seems that we, and the traditions and structures we've relied upon, are being tested as never before.
The good news is that nothing lasts forever, and, if history is any guide, what comes around, goes around. Though Pluto does have an erratic and long orbit, it will exit Capricorn in six years, in January 2020, at which point many astrologers are predicting a full reckoning. Until then, fasten your seat belts, and blame it on Pluto.