“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.
A Farewell to John McCain
Gone at 81, his legacy will live on
Thoughts and prayers are ringing in with harmony at the news that Senator John McCain lost his brave battle with brain cancer. A life well-lived, filled with strength and struggle, wins and losses, and ups and downs, McCain's 81 years on Earth have left a mighty legacy, one that his family will forever cherish, politicians from both sides of the aisle appreciate, and Americans admire.
Political affiliations aside, most agree that McCain was a true hero – in every sense of the word. Be it his unimaginable imprisonment in Vietnam, his devotion to his family, his thoughtful approach to politics, or his courage against cancer, McCain made a difference, created conversation, and gifted us with values and integrity that seem to be otherwise slipping away.
McCain once wrote, "I made a small place for myself in the story of America and the history of my times." But many would argue his place was far more profound. His life as a warrior, an independent voice among the Republican party, and a true leader among colleagues and candidates, McCain's drive, determination, and duty to our country never waned and was welcomed by those who subscribed to his sensibilities, wanted something better to believe in, and a future to look forward to.
On the campaign trailuselectionatlas.org
As reported by NBC News, "'With the senator when he passed were his wife, Cindy, and their family. At his death, he had served the United States of America faithfully for 60 years,' McCain's office said in (a) statement."
Known for his wit as much as his work on Capitol Hill, McCain's fair and balanced take on issues gained him well-deserved recognition and camaraderie. As NBC News eloquently explains, "In his 36 years in Congress, McCain became one of the country's most respected and influential politicians, challenging his fellow lawmakers to reach across the aisle for the good of the country. On a variety of issues — torture, immigration, campaign finance, the Iraq War — McCain was often known as the moral center of the Senate and of the Republican Party."
A father's love www.etonline.com
His daughter, Meghan McCain, shared, "All that I am is thanks to him. Now that he is gone, the task of my lifetime is to live up to his example, his expectations, and his love." Perhaps we can all take something from his example and use it to raise the bar, challenge ourselves, and show compassion when it counts.
I love you forever - my beloved father @SenJohnMcCain pic.twitter.com/Y50tVQvlVe
— Meghan McCain (@MeghanMcCain) August 26, 2018