“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.
Death Toll Rises in Indonesia; Tsunami has Claimed Close to 1,350 Lives
The citizens of Palu are still dealing with the aftermath of Friday's earthquake.
On Friday, the city of Palu was overcome by a 20-foot tsunami after a 7.5-magnitude earthquake hit near Sulawesi.
The island is the 11th largest in the Indonesian archipelago, and Palu, the capital of Central Sulawesi province, is home to 300,000 people and considered an emerging tourist destination. Five days after the initial catastrophe, widespread destruction and dwindling resources create a climate of fear and desperation, and damage to roads and infrastructure have made it difficult for resources to reach critically affected areas, leaving people to live in makeshift tents and loot stores for food and water.
Efforts to find survivors among demolished buildings and rubble has been slow work, with most rescue teams working by hand. On Sunday, Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, spokesperson for the disaster agency (BNBP), said they pulled 13 bodies and two survivors from the wreckage of malls and hotels. One hotel had an estimated 50 people trapped inside as of Monday morning.
ABC now in Palu - at one of the worst disaster sites - a 7 storey hotel that collapsed in the earthquake. 30-40 people still inside, voices were still calling for help this morning @abcnews pic.twitter.com/2tE4vSEYhL
— Anne Barker (@AnneABarker) October 1, 2018
Some lives ended horrifically when they were buried in mud in a phenomenon known as liquefaction. When soil is loose, waterlogged, and shaken violently (as it does during a strong earthquake), it can become unstable and sink unevenly, losing its ability to support structures such as houses and bridge foundations. Several thousand homes were lost in the region as the ground underneath them gave way. As of right now, more than 61,000 have fled their homes and are trying to escape a city plagued by bandits and "armed thugs."
BBC reporters in the area observed police guarding shops, with locals pressing for entry. Officers sprayed tear gas and fired shots in the air to disperse crowds. Stones were thrown at officers as tensions rose. Eventually, the authorities relented and allowed entry as people excitedly grabbed bags of food and drink.
Adek Berry/Agence France-Presse
On Monday, thousands of people wanting to escape the city flocked to the airport runway, breaking down fences and hugging the wheels of military planes attempting take-off. "We have not eaten for three days!" one woman yelled. "We just want to be safe!"
While there were plans to install a warning system after the severe 2004 tsunami, these plans were stalled due to intergovernmental disagreements. The little warning that citizens of Palu were supposed to get, a series of government-sponsored text messages, never went out because of earthquake interference. Because of this, many Indonesians feel that their government has failed them, both in the preparatory stages and in their dealing with the aftermath of the disaster.
In response to the devastation, humanitarian aid is now reaching the city in guarded convoys. More than 18 countries, including the United States and Australia, have pledged to help. President Trump told reporters on Monday that he dispatched first responders and the military to help with the "really bad, bad situation."
No significant foreign military aid has yet arrived in the region.
- Indonesian Tsunami: Could It Happen in the U.S.? - The Atlantic ›
- Indonesia tsunami: why the waves were so deadly - Vox ›
- Indonesia tsunami: Death toll rises to nearly 1,350 - BBC News ›
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- What Went Wrong With Indonesia's Tsunami Early Warning System ... ›