“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.
Department of Justice Sues California Over Net Neutrality Law
But Jerry Brown won't back down.
Since Trump's election, California state government has been at the forefront of the battle against his increasingly idiotic policies.
Whether on issues of immigration or environmental policy, Governor Jerry Brown has clashed with Trump at every opportunity. With a face that constantly says, "I'm not mad, I'm disappointed" and a head that shines in bold mockery of Trump's comb-over, Brown is more than a worthy adversary for the unhinged Commander and Chief.
The latest round of Cali vs. the Federal Government started heating up on Sunday, when the Justice Department sued California in an attempt to stop the state's new law that would guarantee net neutrality. Under California's new law, that erotic-anime-fanfiction site you love will load at the same speed as Netflix. The land of the free, baby.
But as always, America's grumpiest Keebler Elf tried to ruin everyone's fun. Jeff Sessions said in a statement Sunday, "The Justice Department should not have to spend valuable time and resources to file this suit today, but we have a duty to defend the prerogatives of the federal government and protect our Constitutional order." Still not baking cookies, Sessions went on to say that California's net neutrality law was illegal because Congress granted the federal government, through the F.C.C., exclusive authority to create rules for internet providers.
Xavier Becerra, the states attorney general, responded that California, "will not allow a handful of power brokers to dictate sources for information or the speed at which websites load."
In theory, this should be California's least divisive affront to the Trump administration so far, as the vast majority of voters on both sides of the political spectrum support net neutrality. Let's be honest, if a bipartisan experience truly exists, it's casually googling "Can helicopters fly upside down?" and then suddenly realizing it's been three hours and you're on a video of a hippo giving birth. Slower loading speeds would mean a moment of self reflection in the midst of the internet rabbit hole, and nobody--conservative or liberal--wants that. Still, the supposed "party of states' rights" tends to take any opportunity to oppose California's ultra-left wing policies and vehemently anti-Trump governor, and are expected to move forward with the suit.
You probably haven't seen major changes to your internet access since the FCC rolled back Obama era internet regulation, but you could soon. According to The Verge, without net neutrality, "carriers are free to do what they want, and any problems are left to the market to sort out." That means it may become harder and harder for startups and small sites to compete with big sites like Amazon or Youtube. While in theory, competition between carriers would keep any single carrier from throttling sites and jacking up rates, many parts of the U.S. are monopolized by a singular carrier, leaving the provider free to restrict access and charge customers more. And if we know anything about big business, it's that if they can charge more, they will.
Jonathan Schwantes, senior policy counsel for Consumers Union said the California law might be a great start for more widespread net neutrality. "Thanks to its market power and influence as the country's largest state," he said, "California's law sends a strong message to internet service providers and has the potential to shape the market across the country."Brooke Ivey Johnson is a Brooklyn based writer, playwright, and human woman. To read more of her work visit her blog or follow her twitter @BrookeIJohnson.
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