“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.
Will You Partake In The Metaverse Of Madness?
Since the beginning of time, technology has never been stagnant – it’s constantly evolving. Most of us are used to these fleeting technology trends and apps. We first started virtually communicating on MySpace and then ventured into the world of avatars with Snapchat's snappy 10-second stories.
We – or should I say Millenials and Gen Zers – are used to new ideas. But even we couldn’t conceive of a virtual world where people can live, interact, and earn money until . . . the Metaverse was born.
October 28th 2021 will go down in history. That’s when the company formerly known as Facebook rebranded as Meta fully committing to a 3D version of the internet know as the Metaverse.
Metaverse-Metaverse-Metaverse it’s all over the place. But what is it exactly? Simply put, it’s a virtual world that blurs the lines between online and offline communication.
Hold on! Virtual reality? My grandparents are only just getting used to taking my video calls, and now I have to introduce them to the Metaverse – a world where their avatar can walk, talk, and even get married?
During the last few years when people couldn’t interact IRL, a virtual world was ideal. People – or should I say Avatars – could meet and engage in a rocking virtual party. That wasn’t too extreme, but then people started buying property !?! This resembled a piece of land you can own and do with whatever you please. I cannot imagine living in a Metamansion – unless it’s in a game of Sims.
Then came NFTs – or did they come before? – it’s super hard to keep track of. But NFTs are Non-fungible tokens – digital assets like art, music, videos are bought and sold online through cryptocurrency. Oh-yeah, then there’s cryptocurrency. It’s a digital or virtual currency that’s secured by cryptography, which makes it close to impossible to counterfeit or double-spend. Cryptocurrency revolutionized the finance world with people making a ton of money through bitcoin.
Slowly, the fashion industry moved into the Metaverse as well. A Gucci - Roblox bag recently went for 350,000 Robux (close to $4000) on Roblox – a site where you can purchase upgrades for your avatars. I mean, your Avatar can’t be roaming the Metaverse in just jeans and a sweater, they need high-end fashion.
Obviously, with so many items moving into the Metaverse, it made sense for people to secure virtual insurance. I cannot believe this – Virtual insurance! So if you break or lose, or your artwork gets stolen, it makes sense to have a cover. Soon enough, educational institutions imagine digital classrooms, and medical professionals visualize a world where junior doctors practice medicine digitally.
There doesn’t seem to be a limit.
Since we cannot physically inhabit the virtual world, most of these ties make sense until Coke-Cola recently announced a limited edition Coca-Cola® Zero Sugar Byte.
Coke promises that it tastes just like pixels. “The drink’s bright, upfront taste is reminiscent of powering up a game. And its refreshing finish makes for a perfect gaming companion.”
Personally, I don’t understand the concept of creating a beverage for the Metaverse. And I’m so not interested in tasting pixels – I anticipate something chalky and salty. But if you pick up a Zero Sugar Byte before they hop back into the Metaverse, you are one brave individual.
In addition to this drink, Coke is hosting an immense digital experience that includes an original, augmented reality game. Then there’s Pixel Point, an island designed by Coca-Cola where fortnight players can experience this refreshing soda and enjoy a few mini-games.
Now that beverages are being created for the Metaverse, the big question is what next? Will our Avatar’s start grocery shopping in a virtual Target to survive?