“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.
The Saudi government prepares to confirm that the journalist died during "an interrogation gone wrong."
On a Tuesday afternoon, a Turkish woman's fiancé walked into the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul in order to confirm their wedding plans for the following day. Two weeks later and after international outrage over his disappearance, the Saudi government is reportedly preparing a statement that confirms his death within the government building, according to CNN.
The ominous disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi, 60, a well-known dissenter of the Saudi government, has resulted in taut political tensions between Saudi Arabia and western governments calling for a "credible investigation" into his whereabouts. The journalist was captured on CCTV entering the Saudi Consulate at 1:12 PM, as his fiancé, Hatice Cengiz, waited outside at a distance. He was not seen again.
Khashoggi has been presumed dead after Turkish officials alleged that he was tortured and murdered at the hands of Saudi agents; what's ensued is international condemnation of the Saudi government's lack of transparency. EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini spoke for 28 foreign ministers after meeting on the matter: "There was full consensus around the table on the fact that we expect transparency, we expect full clarity from investigations to be done by the Saudi authorities together and in full co-operation with the Turkish authorities," she said. Over the weekend, President Trump vowed there would be "extreme punishment" and directed Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo to immediately travel to meet with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Turkish officials were admitted to the building, alongside a Saudi team, to investigate after unsubstantiated claims that Khashoggi's torture and murder were recorded by his Apple Watch and transmitted to his iPhone were widely publicized. While the Saudi government initially claimed that he exited the consulate safely on October 2, Turkish authorities have insisted that the journalist was brutally attacked by as many as 15 Saudi men who'd recently arrived in Istanbul in a coordinated government plan. To date, their investigation has not uncovered substantial evidence.
Unconfirmed reports indicate that the Saudi government will propose that "rogue" dissidents within the regime murdered the journalist, acting under their own power and not under any governmental orders. President Trump echoed the sentiment on Monday after a phone call to King Salman, stating, "It sounded to me like maybe these could have been rogue killers," he added. "Who knows?" The Saudi's report is expected to allege that Khashoggi died as a result of "an interrogation gone wrong," but disavow a premeditated plot against the outspoken critic.
Khashoggi and CengizCNN
Khashoggi's fiancé is still demanding information from the Saudi government. Cengiz has taken to Twitter in both English and Arabic to implore a response: "I request #SaudiArabia to officially respond to the status of my fiancée #Jkhashogji who entered the #SaudiConsulate in #Istanbul. 10 days ago and his whereabouts are still unknown to date. @JKhashoggi #whereisjamalkhashogji." Prior to Tuesday, she'd shared her plans to throw Khashoggi a surprise party for his 60th birthday, which passed this Saturday.