“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.
Many British politicians are calling for vote of no confidence.
Yesterday, Prime Minister Theresa May announced that her administration has come up with a 585-page draft agreement that will form the basis for the UK's exit from the EU. She is now facing backlash in response to the draft. Among the objections are concerns over the apparent lack of clear guidelines as to whether UK citizens will be able to work and live in the EU, the state of the Irish border under the new deal, and that the UK will pay at least £39bn to the EU to cover all its financial obligations once the deal is agreed upon. May has critics on both sides of the aisle, and those who think the UK needs to make a hard Brexit fear "an agreement on the EU-UK land border will tie the country to the EU's customs union and parts of the single trade market."
In response to the deal, big name ministers have resigned from the cabinet, including Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab, who says he quit over "fatal flaws" in the agreement. Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey has also resigned, saying the Brexit deal "does not honor" the result of the referendum where a majority of Brits voted to leave the EU. Junior ministers Suella Braverman and Shailesh Vara quit the cabinet in protestation as well.
Dominic RaabBusiness Day
Now, May might face a vote of no confidence from the House of Commons, a measure that, if successful, would remove her from power. For the motion to proceed, 48 Conservative MPs—that's 15% of May's own party—must write letters of no confidence. May would then be replaced by someone of her party's choosing. However, if a new MP is not chosen within a period of 14 days after the vote, parliament would be dissolved and a General Election is triggered.
The leader of the labor party, Jeremy Corbyn, is also hoping for a vote of no confidence. In a party-wide email, he wrote, "After two years of bungled negotiations, the government has produced a botched deal that breaches the prime minister's own red lines, does not meet our six tests, and will leave the country in an indefinite halfway house without a real say." He went on to say, "If parliament votes down this shambolic Tory deal—as seems likely—this will represent a loss of confidence in the government. In those circumstances, the best outcome for the country is an immediate general election that can sweep the Tories from power and deliver the Labour government this country desperately needs."
Jeremy CorbynThe Independent
At a press conference on Thursday, May stood by the deal, saying she "believes with every fiber of my being" that the Brexit deal is the right choice. She went on to say that, "Leadership is about taking the right decisions, not the easy ones. As Prime Minister, my job is to bring back a deal that delivers on the vote of the British people. Do I believe this is a deal which does deliver that, which is in the national interest and am I going to see this through? Yes."