“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 Atlanta Shootings Were Anti-Asian Hate Crimes. Here's How to Help.
On Tuesday, March 16, a white male shot eight people in Atlanta, Georgia, six of whom were Asian American women.
The victims have been identified as Delaina Ashley Yuan, 33; Paul Andre Michels, 54; Xiaojie Tan, 49; Daoyou Feng, 44; Julie Park, 70s; and Hyeon Jeong Park, 50s.
The killer opened fire at a business and then at two spas in northeastern Atlanta. He was later identified by authorities, and his actions have been officially blamed on a possible "sex addiction" (which is not a real condition) that caused him to target the three businesses to eliminate "temptation." An officer also blamed the murder on the fact that he having a "really bad day," leading to further outrage.
In reality, the attacks are a violent continuation of a disturbing trend of anti-Asian hate crimes that have been devastating the United States over the past year.
That the victims were Asian women has led others to cite the frequent intersection of misogyny and anti-Asian racism that often manifests as orientalism and imperialism as a possible cause in the shooting. Regardless of the killer's conscious motivations, his actions resulted in the deaths of six people in a demographic that is already fearful and threatened, and they occur in the context of a rush of anti-AAPI hate crimes that are rocking the nation.
The reported shootings of Asian American women on Tuesday in Atlanta is an unspeakable tragedy – for the families o… https://t.co/eNt81YMPSA— Stop AAPI Hate (@Stop AAPI Hate) 1615942392.0
Six Asian American women were killed in Atlanta today. We're still learning about the motive. However, you should k… https://t.co/ddorULw8iN— Dr. Melissa May Borja (@Dr. Melissa May Borja) 1615954559.0
According to a report by Stop AAPI Hate, Asian Americans have reported nearly 3,800 hate incidents over the past year. 68% involved verbal harassment and shunning, and physical violence accounted for 11%.
This is a nearly 150% increase from 2019, according to the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University. Some of the attacks have been deadly — an 83-year-old man named Vicha Ratanapakdee was recently murdered in San Francisco; a 91-year-old man was shoved in Oakland; a 61-year-old named Noel Quintana was slashed in the face on the NYC subway.
this caard provides a lot of articles and resources that you can read through to educate yourself on what is going… https://t.co/wTaqGHCQgf— alli*:･ﾟ (@alli*:･ﾟ) 1615992195.0
It's difficult to chronicle the actual number of hate crimes against AAPI communities, since many go unreported, but the number appears to be rising, with over 500 committed in 2021 alone.
The day before the attack, Michelle Au — Georgia's first Asian American state senator — issued a statement on the senate floor in protestation of the rising number of hate crimes. "Recognize that we need help, we need protection and we need people in power to stand up for us against hate," she said.
We’re troubleshooting @AAJA website, which is crashing from the traffic after we released guidance on covering the… https://t.co/FUkZNBz1mC— Michelle Ye Hee Lee (@Michelle Ye Hee Lee) 1616006465.0
Joe Biden has condemned the spike in hate crimes, stating, "They are forced to live in fear for their lives just walking down streets in America. It's wrong, it's un-American and it must stop." Vice President Kamala Harris also spoke out about the attacks, stating that "The president and I and all of us we grieve for the loss. Our prayers are extended to the families of those who have been killed, and it speaks to a larger issue which is the issue of violence in our country and what we must do to never tolerate it and to always speak out against it."
Many blame Donald Trump's anti-Asian rhetoric and his verbal association between COVID and China for the rise in hate crimes. Despite the visible increase and this clear correlation, anti-Asian racism in America is nothing new and has a long and ugly history, though it has long gone relatively unnoticed.
According to research by Asian Pacific Policy and Planning Council (@A3PCON) and Chinese for Affirmative Action (… https://t.co/wxLnfiakGf— Charlotte Clymer 🏳️🌈 (@Charlotte Clymer 🏳️🌈) 1615968009.0
With #StopAsianHate now trending on Twitter and infographics flooding Instagram, it's easy to see parallels between this movement and the Black Lives Matter movement that spiked over the summer.
Still, most groups advocate for collective solidarity against the deadly violence of white supremacy and racism, calling for people to speak out and learn about the long history and nuances of anti-AAPI racism — instead of just turning this latest horrific tragedy into an online trend.
America’s FIRST restrictive immigration law was the Page Act of 1875, effectively banning Chinese women, under the… https://t.co/9PTV6nl8RK— Mari Uyehara (@Mari Uyehara) 1615953934.0
Yes, if you're covering this, please please please ensure you understand context and history of anti-Asian violence… https://t.co/YtEvDBWhqA— Moriah Balingit (@Moriah Balingit) 1615953902.0
It's also vital to remember that sharing information and spreading awareness is only the beginning, and white people need to show solidarity rather than taking any position of white saviorship.
If you want to support the AAPI community, here are some national organizations to donate to. You can also look into local organizations supporting your immediate community.
Stop AAPI Hate
Stop AAPI Hate is responsible for researching and responding to racism and xenophobia. They are tracking the surge in violence and sharing information with the wider world.
Stop AAPI Hate is proud to announce our latest national report, measuring anti-Asian hate incidents from March 2020… https://t.co/S1KRDFA9bw— Stop AAPI Hate (@Stop AAPI Hate) 1615915487.0
Red Canary Song
Red Canary Song is a transnational grassroots collective of Asian and migrant sex workers. They are working against police raids and deportations and believe in mutual aid and labor rights regardless of immigration status.
Hello all. In light of what happened today in Atlanta, I added @RedCanarySong to this doc list and their donation l… https://t.co/155q6TDdsV— sab•睿妍 is THEY THEM (@sab•睿妍 is THEY THEM) 1615954243.0
Asian Mental Health Collective
The Asian Mental Health Collective is working towards building a supportive community for Asians struggling with mental health. They are working to de-stigmatize mental illness and to make mental healthcare easily accessible to Asian communities worldwide.
Gofundme's #StopAsianHate Campaign
Gofundme has created a unified fundraiser that supports multiple organizations leading in the AAPI community, including Mekong NYC, Asian Health Services , Oakland Chinatown Ambassadors Program, AAPI Women Lead, and Khmer Girls in Action. You can also support individual victims of violence through Gofundme, such as Noel Quintana, Yong Zheng, and more.
[email protected]: "As part of our Gives Back program, we’re grateful for the chance to donate to fundraisers that have to… https://t.co/aiTet7V0Vm— Asian American Federation (@Asian American Federation) 1615913043.0
Asian Pacific Environmental Network
The Asian Pacific Environmental Network fights against environmental racism in Asian American communities and builds power in immigrant and refugee communities.
In this moment, we must follow and support organizations on the ground in #Atlanta. Please read this statement from… https://t.co/5TpdrTmClm— APEN (@APEN) 1616003192.0
Asian Americans Advancing Justice
Asian Americans Advancing Justice offers legal and civil rights aid for the Asian American community. They fight for housing justice, voting rights, workers' rights, and much more.
Rise up against racism together. Call for legal and victim assistance. Tell your loved ones not to be afraid. There… https://t.co/cmtD7QeC3c— Advancing Justice-LA (@Advancing Justice-LA) 1615585190.0
Asian American Federation
The AAF is an organization dedicated to benefiting the pan-Asian community and fighting hate crimes directly through outreach, community organizing, nonprofit leadership, and advocacy.
They Can't Burn Us All
They Can't Burn Us All is an organization organizing actions and rallies around the country in protest against hate crimes against the AAPI community.
You can also find a list of 45 organizations to donate to here.