“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.
3rd Kavanaugh Accuser Comes Forward Before Trial
According to Michael Avenatti, Brett Kavanaugh's assault of Christine Blasey Ford is just the tip of the iceberg.
The controversy surrounding Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh escalated after a third accuser alleged that the Supreme Court nominee took part in "gang rape" activities while in high school. Julie Swetnick, Washington resident and high school classmate of Kavanaugh, issued a sworn affidavit through her attorney Michael Avenatti alleging that she witnessed "Mark Judge and Brett Kavanaugh drink excessively and engage in highly inappropriate conduct, including being overly aggressive with girls and not taking 'No' for an answer. This conduct included the fondling and grabbing of girls without their consent."
Below is my correspondence to Mr. Davis of moments ago, together with a sworn declaration from my client. We demand an immediate FBI investigation into the allegations. Under no circumstances should Brett Kavanaugh be confirmed absent a full and complete investigation. pic.twitter.com/QHbHBbbfbE
— Michael Avenatti (@MichaelAvenatti) September 26, 2018
The three-page statement enumerates graphic details of inappropriate conduct by Kavanaugh between 1981 and 1982. Swetnick recollects her general impressions of Kavanaugh at the time as a "mean drunk," recalling behaviors including "speak[ing] in a demeaning manner about girls in general as well as specific girls by name." The central grievance of the new allegations, however, detail specific "efforts by Mark Judge, Brett Kavanaugh and others to 'spike' the 'punch' at house parties I attended with drugs and/or grain alcohol so as to cause girls to lose their inhibitions and their ability to say 'No.'"
Swetnick asserts, "I have a firm recollection of seeing boys lined up outside rooms at many of these parties waiting for their 'turn' with a girl inside the room. These boys included Mark Judge and Brett Kavanaugh." Unlike Kavanaugh's other accusers, Christine Blasey Ford and Deborah Ramirez, Swetnick is not directly accusing Kavanaugh of sexual assault. Rather, she recounts that she did become a "victim of one of these 'gang' or 'train' rapes" in 1982, at which time Kavanaugh and Mike Judge were "present." She reports being "incapacitated" by "Quaaludes or something similar placed in what I was drinking" and "unable to fight off the boys."
Kavanaugh outright rejects the new allegations, stating, "This is ridiculous and from the Twilight Zone. I don't know who this is and this never happened."
President Donald Trump weighed in on the third allegation on Twitter with an ad hominem attack on Avenatti, calling the attorney, oft-noted for representing Stormy Daniels, a "lowlife" who is "just looking for attention."
Avenatti is a third rate lawyer who is good at making false accusations, like he did on me and like he is now doing on Judge Brett Kavanaugh. He is just looking for attention and doesn't want people to look at his past record and relationships - a total low-life!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 26, 2018
Avenatti responded with a spirited defense of Swetnick as a "sexual assault victim" who "risked her life to do the right thing."
.@realDonaldTrump @ChuckGrassley @LindseyGrahamSC - Are you three privileged, white men calling my client Julie a liar? How dare you attack a sexual assault victim. She has risked her life to do the right thing. You should be ashamed of yourselves. Your actions are disgraceful.
— Michael Avenatti (@MichaelAvenatti) September 26, 2018
Officially, Avenatti has demanded that both the F.B.I. and Senate Judiciary Committee investigate the veracity of Swetnick's claims. One of Kavanaugh's attorneys, Beth Wilkinson, criticized Avenatti when speaking to CNN, "There must be a reason, as a lawyer, that he didn't take these allegations to the police himself," she said. "No one is stopping him."
These new allegations were released one day before Judge Kavanaugh is due in court to address sexual assault accusations by Christine Blasey Ford, who's due to testify against Kavanaugh in an open hearing on Thursday at 10 a.m. A third accuser is sure to heighten the stakes of how Ford's testimony will be received, as Ford is poised to set a powerful precedent for how Kavanaugh's other accusers can affect the appointment of the next Supreme Court Judge.