“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.
Crisis is calling in South Sudan, and Concern Worldwide needs your help
Parts of South Sudan are experiencing extreme hunger. Read about one organization’s mission to change that.
Food is one of life’s necessities, but when there’s enough of it to go around, it can seem more like a commodity. That’s because many of us have never experienced what it’s like to go hungry. Earlier this year, the United Nations and the South Sudan government declared famine in two counties in South Sudan, as the country was gripped by an unprecedented and rapidly-growing food crisis. After a swift humanitarian response, a recent report declared South Sudan free of famine — but that doesn’t mean the hunger crisis is over. 2 million still remain threatened by starvation, a number that could soon rise to 6 million. As a result of a years-long civil war, skyrocketing inflation rates, massive debt, and rising food prices, the country has spiraled into a critical state of emergency. And the citizens can’t reverse it alone.
In one of the country’s hardest hit areas, Northern Bahr el Ghazal, 59% of the population is experiencing dire food shortages. That has led to and continues to prompt related problems that threaten the prosperity of this vulnerable country. Food shortages have resulted in rampant malnutrition, and those most at risk include an estimated quarter of a million children who will face severe acute malnutrition, the most dangerous and life-threatening form of hunger. With violence and displacement forcing some the country’s few health facilities to close, those in need of medical attention are forced to find the remaining clinics, which are not properly equipped with basic medicine and staff.
Without immediate help and response, the country of South Sudan will plunge further into disaster and families will continue to suffer and die from hunger. That’s why organizations like Concern Worldwide are calling for action. Concern Worldwide is a Guidestar Gold-rated international aid agency that currently has 300 responders in South Sudan reaching 700,000 people in desperate need.
Even before famine was declared, 4.9 million were already in urgent need of food, and Concern Worldwide was working to reach them. The road to recovery is not one that immediate humanitarian efforts alone can build, but one that requires maintaining and supporting a long-term commitment to aid. But change can start with you. South Sudan is still in desperate need, and Concern Worldwide is making it easy to send a small donation that can make a world of difference. 92c of every dollar donated gets put to work in the field, making Concern the one of the most efficient and trustworthy NGOs of its size. Just $30 provides emergency food to save the life of a malnourished child. You have the power to help give the men, women, and children of South Sudan a second chance at a happy, hunger-free life.
We need your help! Follow this link to Concern Worldwide to lend a helping hand to the urgent food crisis.