“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.
Conservative Personality Laura Loomer Handcuffed to Twitter HQ in NYC
Loomer claimed that she had been "silenced in America" after her account was permanently removed from the social media site.
Just in time for Hanukkah, in what was definitely not a stunt specifically orchestrated to get attention, conservative personality and self-proclaimed "citizen journalist" Laura Loomer donned a Holocaust-era Star of David and handcuffed herself to Twitter's NYC headquarters in protest this afternoon. "You can still subscribe to my website," Loomer told reporters while claiming that she had been "silenced in America" after her account was permanently removed from the social media site.
Loomer's account was removed last week for violating Twitter's terms against hateful conduct. The removal was in response to tweets by Loomer in which she accused newly-elected congresswoman Ilhan Omar, who is Muslim, of being "anti-Jew," homophobic, and "pro-Sharia" because of her faith. The tweet itself was Loomer's way of criticizing the use of Omar's picture in a Twitter feature celebrating "women, LGBTQ, and minorities" because apparently, as a Somali refugee who just became one of the first Muslim women elected to Congress, Omar is not an appropriate person to be associated with such celebrations.
"Twitter is upholding Sharia by banning me for stating facts about Sharia law," Loomer said as she stood outside of the building with a bullhorn and enlarged prints of her own tweets. What she conveniently neglected to tell reporters, however, was that she falsely attributed the "facts" of Sharia law to Omar's beliefs. By that logic, Loomer, herself Jewish, surely spends her Friday nights sitting quietly by candlelight, definitely not plowing, and avoiding the urge to shear any animal at all costs.
Earlier in the day, Loomer announced that she was joining a class action lawsuit against Twitter, Facebook, Google, Apple, Instagram, and YouTube for "discrimination against conservatives."
Police arrived at Loomer's protest and urged her to move, citing a fire hazard. However, because she had only cuffed herself to one of the building's double doors, people were able to enter and exit the building with only the slight inconvenience of the crowd and the grating, false equivalencies of the protester.
Rebecca Linde is a writer and cultural critic in NYC. She tweets about pop culture and television @rklinde