“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.
White House to Deny Green Cards to Immigrants on Public Benefits
The Trump Administration's new regulation would affect legal immigrants on welfare programs such as food stamps.
A new rule proposed over the weekend by the Trump Administration seeks to limit green cards to those who legally use food stamps, Medicaid, and other public benefits.
Pro-immigrant groups quickly condemned the regulation, saying that it creates additional barriers for legal immigrants in the U.S.
The National Immigration Law Center's executive director Marielena Hincapié said in a statement: "The Trump administration is using this regulatory backdoor approach because it attempted to enact its draconian agenda of restricting legal immigration through Congress — and failed. This rule change is radical and extreme, and it leaves the door wide open for potential abuse. All of us, regardless of where we were born, suffer when immigrants are penalized for trying to have their basic needs met."
There's longstanding precedent in federal law for denying resident status to immigrants deemed a "public charge," meaning they are a potential threat to the economy. The new proposal is the first time healthcare and other non-monetary benefits are being targeted. Previously, limitations were only placed on those receiving cash benefits.
"Under long-standing federal law, those seeking to immigrate to the United States must show they can support themselves financially," said Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen in a statement. "This proposed rule will implement a law passed by Congress intended to promote immigrant self-sufficiency and protect finite resources by ensuring that they are not likely to become burdens on American taxpayers."
Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen NielsenJabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images
Millions of immigrants rely on public assistance for necessities such as food and shelter, and the updated rules could force a difficult decision between accepting help and applying for a permit to work and live in the U.S. legally. Older immigrants who rely on low-cost prescription drugs provided by Medicare may be particularly vulnerable, according to the New York Times.
Trump's administration reports that the regulation is not intended to target those already with green cards and will only affect 382,000 people per year. Advocates worry legal immigrants will stop using public benefits to protect themselves.
In response to the news, the American Civil Liberties Union tweeted:
This move by the Trump administration is a new attempt to kick and keep immigrants out of our country and attack people with disabilities, including people with HIV and those who are enrolled in the Medicaid program.https://t.co/SsKkQNC9Qu
— ACLU (@ACLU) September 23, 2018
The proposed regulation comes less than six weeks before the U.S. midterm elections and must undergo a public comment period before it can be implemented.
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