“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.
Texas Can Ban Abortions Now
Governor Greg Abbott signed an executive order suspending "non-essential" medical procedures in the wake of the coronavirus, including abortions.
Most of our country's current administration certainly won't go down in history for their handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
The nation's top leaders long ignored warning signs of the virus, but that doesn't mean Republicans can't use COVID-19 to push their anti-abortion agenda. A number of governors, including Texas' Greg Abbott, are suspending "non-essential" medical procedures for the time being, which so conveniently includes abortions. It must be nice to live a life in which accessing a safe abortion doesn't directly affect you!
Lawmakers in favor of this have framed it as a way to minimize use of hospital resources in the wake of COVID-19. However, as we already know, cutting off access to safe and legal abortions doesn't prevent abortions from happening; patients desperate for the procedure now will now be forced to travel, which creates the possibility of further spreading COVID-19 across states. Suspending abortions isn't going to minimize the spread of coronavirus—it's only going to put more people at risk.
Nevertheless, Governor Abbott issued an executive order to "postpone all surgeries and procedures that are not immediately medically necessary" from March 22 to April 21. As Jezebel reports, "On March 30, the ban was briefly lifted when a lower court ruled it unconstitutional in response to a complaint jointly filed by the Center for Reproductive Rights, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, and the Lawyering Project. But just one day later, three federal judges granted a temporary stay, which means the ban will resume."
Progressives have been criticized by conservatives for weaponizing the coronavirus against Trump. But what's more disgusting: rightfully criticising the most powerful man in the world's poor handling of a pandemic, or abhorrently using the virus to further prevent Americans from getting necessary health care?
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