“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.
BLM Activist Oluwatoyin Salau Found Dead After Tweeting About Her Assault
Salau is one of multiple Black people killed following the murder of George Floyd.
In the wake of protests following the death of George Floyd in Minnesota, the list of lost demonstrators is growing.
This weekend, Black Lives Matter activist Oluwatoyin Salau was found dead in her hometown of Tallahassee, Fl. at just 19 years old. This follows the recent loss of Black transgender man named Tony McDade, who was murdered by Tallahassee police. A suspect has been taken into custody surrounding the death, but friends of Salau say there's much more to the story.
Sources close to Salau say she was a victim of sex trafficking near Florida A&M University. The afternoon she went missing, she tweeted that a man assaulted her, having offered to take her to a church.
"He came disguised as a man of God and ended up picking me up from nearby Saxon Street," Salau tweeted, according to the Tallahassee Democrat. "I trusted the holy spirit to keep me safe."
Salau said she had also been sexually assaulted a few days before she'd gone missing and contacted police. Ashley Laurent, a friend of Salau's, said a police officer told them more evidence was needed to pursue an investigation. This has prompted people online to condemn the Tallahassee police for their mistreatment of both McDade and Salau.
Sign a petition to demand justice for Salau here.
RIP to 19 year old activist Oluwatoyin “Toyin” Salau. 🙏🏾 She was found dead after detailing a sexual assault and b… https://t.co/mA38X85nal— 247 Live Culture (@247 Live Culture) 1592199343.0