“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.
COVID-19 - Part 3: The Inflection Point
The very small window of opportunity to close down the country
By Anthony Lee, MD
Faculty, Harvard Medical School
As we make our way through this pandemic, the large number of cases in the United States has caught our attention and prompted much discussion. In Part 3 of this series, we will delineate the events that have thus far unfolded for the United States.
In Parts 1 and 2 of this series, we plotted cases and deaths on a per 100,000 population basis. In Part 2 we added "The rest of the US" as a location, represented by "US-NYS" to illustrate that outside of New York State, the US is doing relatively well compared to NYS and other parts of the world.
One notices, however, that in Figure 1 for NYC and NYS, a low and flat trajectory is seen from early February and continues until March 16th, when suddenly the trajectory begins to steepen. This is called the inflection point of the curve and will be described in Figure 2.
In Figure 2, locations other than NYC, NYS, and US-NYS (US minus NYS) have been removed. Social distancing began on March 17th. Note that in prior charts, social distancing for the US was lumped with that of the UK. But, after reviewing history, the US actually began social distancing a week earlier. (This has been corrected on subsequent charts.)
Figure 2 presents milestones that show when certain measures were enacted and what the number of cases and deaths were at that time, on a per 100,000 population basis by location. The inflection point represents a small window of opportunity to make a quick decision on mitigation.
Here are the events leading up to and around the inflection point:
2/2/20: Travel ban from China
2/29/20: Travel ban from Iran, Italy, and South Korea
3/11/20: World Health Organization declares COVID-19 a pandemic
3/12/20: Travel ban from Schengen European Countries*
3/14/20: Travel ban from UK and Ireland
3/17/20: Social distancing and restrictions start
3/19/20: Travel restrictions from Japan (not shown in Figure 2)
3/19/20: Increased testing in New York (not shown in Figure 2)
As far as the other locations seen in Figure 1, we can see that Italy continues to decrease in daily new cases, Ireland and Belgium have seen spikes in new cases. Massachusetts and NY continue to see waves of new cases that overall seem to be increasing in magnitude, while the rest of the locations continue on low and flat trajectories.
New York State continues to be the epicenter of the world, with 33% of all US cases and 10% of all cases globally.
Sources of data: Worldometer.com, Spectrum News NY1, Massachusetts Department of Public Health, HSC Public Health Agency
*The Schengen Area is composed of 26 European states that have officially abolished passports and all other types of border control at their mutual borders.
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