“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.
Law enforcement expects to find more devices.
UPDATE: On Friday, authorities reportedly arrested a man in connection with the bombing campaign against Democrats and ex-officials. It has not yet been made clear who has been arrested but according to three law-enforcement officials, the suspect was arrested in Florida, and is in his 50s.
So far, law enforcement has found 12 suspicious packages addressed to 10 people. The targets of the bomb campaign have all been outspoken critics of President Trump, and many speculate that the person perpetrating these attacks is a right-wing extremist.
On Wednesday morning, explosive devices were sent to former President Barack Obama, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and the CNN offices in New York, though law enforcement intervened before any of the devices could detonate. Later on Wednesday, CNN reported that the Florida office of Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz — the Democratic National Committee Chair from 2011 to 2016 — has also been evacuated because of a suspicious package. This package appeared to bear the delivery address of former attorney general Eric Holder and the return address of Wasserman Schultz's office.
It's believed that the packages are similar to the bomb found in the mailbox of liberal philanthropist and business magnate George Soros on Monday, suggesting a connection between the incidents.
During a press conference at 1 PM on Wednesday, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo revealed that he had been informed that a package addressed to his office had been intercepted by security, bringing the number of suspicious packages discovered thus far to six.
Mr. Clinton was reportedly present at the couple's Chappaqua, NY home at the time of the attempted attack, but Mrs. Clinton was in Florida on business. It remains unclear whether the Obamas were in their DC home when the device was discovered. The CNN offices in New York have been evacuated as the package is being removed from the premises.
The perpetrator of the attacks appears to be targeting figures and organizations who have faced criticism from President Trump and conservatives. As The New York Timesreports, Trump "has often referred to major news organizations as 'the enemy of the people,' and has had a particular animus for CNN."
To add further intrigue to the situation at CNN, the parcel was reportedly addressed to former CIA director, John Brennan. Brennan often appears as a guest on CNN and has been a very vocal critic of Trump, spurring the president to revoke his security clearance this past summer. Brennan has declined to comment on the attack.
CNN previously reported that another explosive device had been intercepted before delivery to the White House, but the Secret Service later clarified that this information was inaccurate, and they only intercepted packages meant for Obama and Clinton.
CLARIFICATION: At this time the Secret Service has intercepted TWO suspicious packages - one in NY and one in D.C.… https://t.co/ZmGUQXgkEw— U.S. Secret Service (@U.S. Secret Service) 1540393695.0
In a statement released Wednesday, the White House condemned the attacks, saying, "These terrorizing acts are despicable, and anyone responsible will be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law, the United States Secret Service and other law enforcement agencies are investigating and will take all appropriate actions to protect anyone threatened by these cowards."
The devices will reportedly be transported to secure locations for supervised detonation, and law enforcement, led by the joint terrorism task force in NYC, will continue to investigate in hopes of discovering the origins of the packages.