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 Where is Colin Powell's conscience? In a time when the world is getting ready

to go up in flames in a war that's hugely ill-advised




Transcript of

Belafonte Interview with Larry King

Oct. 15, 2002


King: First, for openers, we thank Harry Belafonte for giving us this time exclusively. Second, to also inform you that I've known Harry Belafonte for over 40 years. I've also known Colin Powell for well over 12 years, consider both friends. Harry Belafonte needs no defender. His work in activism in well noted, but I will tell you that I was with him in Miami Beach when he became the first black to stay at a Miami Beach hotel.

He was a close friend of Martin Luther King, worked as a humanitarian, won numerous prizes, including a Nelson Mandela Courage Award. He hashe brought together performers like Michael Jackson and Bruce Springsteen, was responsible for "We are the World." His work with troubled youth, President Kennedy named him a cultural adviser to the Peace Corps. The list could go on and on.

Harry Belafonte doesn't need anybody talking about his credit, but he did surprise many of his friends and followers with a statement on a San Diego radio station. Let's listen to that statement.

(Begin audio tape)

Harry Belafonte, Activist: There's an old saying in the days of slavery. There are those slaves who lived on the plantation, and there were those slaves who lived in the house. You got the privilege of living in the house if you served the master. Colin Powell was permitted to come into the house of the master.

(End audio tape)

King: All right, Harry, what did you mean?

Harry Belafonte: First of all, let me hasten to say, Larry, that this was never meant to be a personal attack on Colin Powell's character. What it was meant, however, to be was an attack on policy, and the reference and the metaphor used about slaveryit is my personal feeling that plantations exist all over America. If you walk into South Central Los Angeles, into Watts, or you walk into Over-the-Rhine in Cincinnati, you'll find people who live lives that are as degrading as anything that slavery had ever produced. They live in economic oppression, they live in a disenfranchised way. In the hearts and minds of those people, and millions of others, you're always looking for hope, and whenever somebody within our tribe, within our group, emerges that has the position of authority and power to make a difference in the way business is done, our expectations run high.

Many times, those expectations are not fulfilled. But when such an individual is in the service of those who not only perpetuate the oppression, but sometimes design the way in which it is applied, it then becomes very, very, very, very critical that we raise our voices and be heard. And...

King: I'm sorry, I don't meanisn't it possible, Harry, one, that Colin Powell, who has stood up for his country, fought for his country, may have disagreed in counsel, but supports his president in a tough time of needwhy compare that to beingas a slave?

Harry Belafonte: Because, I think, to a great degree, that which governs us is really the extent to which we are permitted by the forces of power in this country to do what it is we can do to make a difference.

The civil rights movement was a huge struggle against an enormous opposition. You know, many people who lived under that tenet and what we had to do to try to position people in high places to make a difference so we could change the way in which our democracy functioned was part of the game.

And Colin Powell is in that position. And I do believe that the policies that have been expressed by the administration he serves are less than honorable.

It is not just about what I say. Last year, in South Africa, the United Nations under Kofi Annan gave us an excellent opportunity in convening the International Conference on Racism directed by a woman of remarkable credentials, the former president of Ireland, Mary Robinson. There was a place where the United States should have been in attendance, and given us the benefit of thought on a very grievous set of conditions that affect the human family -- the issue of race.

And in that instance, the United States government sought to turn its back on the thousands of people who were gathered there to make a difference. And Colin Powell was the point person on that distancing of our country. You know...

King: What did you want him to do? What do you want him to do?

Harry Belafonte: I would like him to live up to a higher moral standard. You know, Jeffords doesn't have to be the only one who sits in disagreement with the policies of this country and this government and acts upon it out of conscience.

Where is Colin Powell's conscience? In a time when the world is getting ready to go up in flames in a war that's hugely ill-advised, you know. Today we are going to go after Iraq. You know, where do we go next? After Iran? And then, when our present friends fall out of favor with us, do we go after Pakistan?

King: But can't Colin Powell have a belief that the Iraqi situation is the administration's point of view, is correct and agree with its principles without giving up his own -- you're assuming that he's going against his principles. Maybe they are his principles.

Harry Belafonte:Well, if they are his principles, then I sit opposed to them. I have to make the assumption that it's not his principles because of what he said . . . at the Republican National Convention when he gave that remarkable speech. Or when he said going through the United Nations as the vehicle through which this problem should be settled. To do anything less than that and to stick to that mandate I think is a sellout.

King: So you think he is selling -- has he disappointed you, then?

Harry Belafonte: Yes. You know, unfortunately. He has. As I said before earlier, we have high expectations. Necessarily for those who come from color, who come from a history of oppression, or at least an understanding of it. And what we would hope is that people who come from that experience would use it effectively to change the way in which others do business in the world of oppression.

King: Do you have the same views about Condoleezza Rice?

BELAFONTE: Yes. Absolutely. Absolutely. Even more so. Because I've never heard from Condoleezza Rice even the suggestion towards some of the more lenient thoughts or some of the more appropriate thoughts that Colin Powell has expressed.

King: Let's say they share your beliefs and are trying to do the best from within. Do you want them to make a moral statement and quit the administration? Do you want them to speak out and say, I was opposed but -- what do you want Colin Powell or Condoleezza Rice -- let's concentrate on Colin -- what do you want him to do?

BELAFONTE: Colin Powell is not a victim here. Let's get that straight. Colin Powell is a individual, he's a man of enormous resources, he has an enormous intelligence, he has that agenda. What is that agenda, Colin? I mean, you know, you speak about the disenfranchised, you speak about the fairness of race. You speak about democracy. Everything that is in your administration's policy runs contrary to that fact.

King: And Condoleezza -- you feel the same way. So if you were them, you would quit.

BELAFONTE: If I was them, I would use the platform to speak out against the ill-advised policies of the administration. I would go as far as inviting to be fired, if that's what happens. You know, Colin Powell's on the brink of being nominated for presidency of this country. Obviously, he's held in high esteem. He doesn't have to grovel to anyone.

You know, nor do I suggest that that's necessarily what he's doing. Maybe his agenda is that of the president's. He often says that he serves them with great pride and with great passion. That's unfortunate.

King: In retrospect, were your remarks a bit harsh by going into a comparison to slavery? To making him appear like, well, put it frankly, Uncle Tom?

BELAFONTE: Well, I think those who have the capacity and the courage to make a difference by doing bold things, who refuse to apply that condition, are more often suspect of selling out than they are of standing brave and courageous as others have done.

You know, I didn't refer to him as an Uncle Tom. I said, those who sit in the service of the house and those who sit in the service of those who languish on the plantation. America has many plantations, even today. Not only in America, those plantations sit in many places around the world, where I've seen people suffer.

I work for the United Nations. I go to places where enormous upheaval and pain and anguish exist. And a lot of it exists based upon American policy. Whom we support, whom we support as heads of state, what countries we've helped to overthrow, what leaders we've helped to diminish because they did not fit the mold we think they should fit, no matter how ill advised that thought may be. It is not without reason that I make my observation.

King: Harry, I want you to just spend a moment watching Colin Powell's response when I asked him about your remarks on our show about ten days ago. Here's Colin.

(Begin video clip)

Colin Powell, Secretary of State: If Harry had wanted to attack my politics, that was fine. If he wanted to attack a particular position I hold, that was fine. But to use a slave reference I think is unfortunate and is a throwback to another time and another place that I wish Harry had thought twice about using.

(End video clip)

King: Want to comment?

Harry Belafonte: Yes. Let me first of all tell you, Larry, slavery is a noble part of black history. It's an anguished part of this country's history. Most of who and what we are was shaped during the period of slavery. Our forefathers, those who were courageous and noble enough to resist tyranny, shaped their thoughts during slavery.

And the plantations were a difficult place on which to live and to work. There's nothing wrong with that. There's nothing wrong to talk about the plantation and to throw back to the time of slavery. Why not? It's part of our history. As a matter of fact, we've forgotten it much too quickly and much too easily.

King: But it was obviously you hurt him, Harry. There was pain in him because he obviously admires you a great deal. You're one of the greater entertainers of all time. You both have a Jamaican heritage. He must have felt a closeness to you. He had to be -- I mean don't you feel bad that you hurt him?

Harry Belafonte: I still feel closely to Colin Powell. I'd still like to reach for him. He's not the first person in office who has eluded us or presented an opportunity to do some good that we thought we could never have.

Bobby Kennedy, was when he first came into office, somebody that we looked at with enormous anguish and suspicion because we didn't feel that he understood the struggles of black people in this country. And our task was to reach to him and to provoke him and to push him until he became a human being who was awakened to the cause of the peoples of this country who sit disenfranchised and who were living in oppression in a very violent time in our nation, when racism was legal. And look at what happened to him by the end of his life because those of us who spoke out awakened him to understand that what he's doing is not acceptable.

King: We'll be right back with more of Harry Belafonte. We'll include some phone calls. Mr. Belafonte, thankfully enough also still entertains. Appears in concert frequently and is welcomed wherever he goes. This is a very fascinating discussion which I hope you find as interesting as I do. We'll take a break and come back.

(Begin video clip)

William J. Clinton, President of the United States: Today he [Harry Belafonte] continues to bring art and activism together to inspire all of us to live our lives with passion and with concern for others.

Ladies and gentlemen, please join me in congratulating Harry Belafonte.

(End video clip)

King: Was that -- what was that medal, Harry?

Harry Belafonte: It was the National Medal for the Arts. It was given to me by President Clinton. And I was very honored to receive it.

King: You've also been critical of President Clinton at times.

Harry Belafonte:Yes, I have.

What's wrong with criticism? What's wrong with the voice of dissent? What's wrong with another point of view? That's what America is built on. And I want to tell you something -- the minute we lose that right and that capacity to do that, we've lost our soul as a nation.

King: You would not change the statement?

Harry Belafonte: No. I would perhaps put it in a context that would be a little bit more -- like the opportunity you're giving me now to put it in a context, but in essence, I wouldn't change the statement.

King: But Colin Powell has been a voice in the Republican party for moderation. Many didn't like his views on abortion, he's pro- choice. He certainly has stood up for affirmative action. He had a lot to do with integration in the military service. He has been a bulwark to black people in America, who look for -- as you looked for -- you looked for the Martin Luther Kings and others -- who look for people who are example of leadership.

And this administration, while it's being wrapped, has a secretary of state who is black and a National Security Adviser who is black. That's never happened before.

Harry Belafonte: You're still dealing with the personality of the man. What I'm dealing with are the issues about the policies that he serves. That's what this is about.

We're getting ready to go to war. American boys and girls are going to be dead on some foreign battlefield again. In a place that all advice doesn't suggest that it's the best move we could make. That's a serious, serious concern for the citizens of this country. It is about the policy, Larry. It's not about the man. I like Colin Powell. I like his West Indian background. I like his intellect. I like a lot of things that he does and his style. What is at fault here is a policy that's taking this country to hell.

You know, to quote Shakespeare these days is not the most popular thing, that not a lot of artists can do, but I would say to you, that in the closing act of "King Lear," the character says, "'Tis the time's plague when the -- when mad men lead the blind.'"

And I tell you, there's madness that's in the world today and what even exacerbates the problem is that nowhere do you hear voices of reason coming to the table with ideas and thoughts that could change the scenario because they're not given the opportunity to be here.

Amelia Robinson whom I just mentioned, she was one of the leading voices in the United Nations. We worked tenaciously to getting her dismissed and now she's gone. Why?

King: Isn't one of the classic examples of madness in the world Saddam Hussein?

Harry Belafonte: Absolutely. No question.

King: So what do you do about him?

Harry Belafonte: Go through the United Nations and follow the Council and the principles of the international family. That's what we do about it. Stop bullying the world. Stop saying, That you do it our way or no way counts. That is not civil.

King: And if the United Nations says we will take military action, you then support it?

Harry Belafonte: Yes. If the United Nations decides to take action, then I would stand by the United Nations.

King: On -- by the way, where were you on 9/11?

Harry Belafonte: On another channel, getting ready to launch a work that I had just done. I was on NBC and just about to go down to the World Trade Center for breakfast. Had the incident happened just an hour later, I might very well have been one of its victims.

King: All right. Now, the world changed that day, Harry, you had to admit that. We can't sit around -- I mean, it may be fine to say that this is what we're based on, but we're a nervous nation. And when you're nervous and when there's a threat of -- look what's going on in Washington, Maryland and Virginia now, you have to act in ways that may not be standard with the morality and the history of this country.

But we've never faced this before. Isn't that just being realistic?

Harry Belafonte: I challenge that our only option to conduct that is new to us, that is villainous, is to do something that's immoral. I don't buy that. I don't buy that at all. I think there are a lot of ways in which these situations can be dealt with and should be dealt with.

King: So you don't think we have to change anything? We could just go on as we have?

Harry Belafonte: Oh no. I think we have to change a lot. Mostly, how we helped breed the playing ground in which a lot of thinking tyranny comes out of. Our hands are not clean, Larry. There are nations all over this globe that suffer from policies that we have implemented. People go away bitter with a great sense of loss and families are destroyed.

Terror isn't only our experience. Terror is experienced by people all over the place and we have helped instigate some of it.

King: How about those who say, let's say, Condoleezza Rice is a classic example of how we've come a long way. Here's a woman who 30 years ago wouldn't have made a dent. She goes to professor at Stanford, she's a National Security Adviser in the administration.

You may disagree with her policies, but wouldn't you say, you've come a long way?

BELAFONTE: Absolutely. There's no question we've come a long way. Nobody dismisses that. That does not, however, diminish how far it is we still have to go. And just evoking the person's gender, because Condoleezza Rice is a woman, and her color, because she's black, does not justify abdication of moral responsibility. That does not make it all right or better.

If she were a Jew and were doing things that were anti-semitic and against the best interests of people, that would also stand the same way. This is not about color. It's not about gender. It's about policy. It's about what choices we make as a people, about the human family and where we're going and what we're doing. That's what this is about.

King: And that's what General Powell said in his statement on this show. Criticize me on my policy, but don't go back to making me a slave in the house of a master and because I'm a good slave, I get to serve in the house. That was taking it too far to hit him personally.

Harry Belafonte: Well, I'm glad it woke him up. I'm glad it made him pay attention.

I'm not too sure that I'd have gotten on your show discussing this in this way if these things are not happened. That was not my intention, incidentally. I was caught in a very passionate moment in that radio interview. And I spoke my piece. But now that it is on the table, fine, I will continue to speak my thoughts on the subject and I will stand corrected if I have made error, but I do believe that what I am talking about is what is not being discussed. It is who stands responsible for the mistakes this nation makes because it doesn't want to listen to dissent.

King: Would you like to sit down with the Secretary?

Harry Belafonte: Love to.

King: We'll take a break and come back with more of Harry Belafonte. We'll include some phone calls for one of the great -- by the way, little known fact: his "Calypso" album, which really made calypso music in America, was the first album to sell over a million copies.

We'll be right back.

King: Harry Belafonte and a group -- he put it all together, "We are the World."

Let's take some calls for one of the great entertainers of modern times, Harry Belafonte.

Marietta, Georgia -- hello.

Caller: Hi.

King: Hi.

Caller: First of all, I want to say that I have a lot of respect for both of you, and Harry, I just want to say that while I respectfully disagree with what you said about Colin Powell, I am curious as to what your friends, your family, and especially your counterparts in the show business arena had to say about your comments.

King: Good question.

Harry Belafonte: Well, most of my friends with whom I've talked about have been somewhat caught up in this fracas, and I think, by and large, everybody understands what I meant, understands where I'm coming from, and they see no villainy in it, and I think they are -- they stand by me.

KING: Were any critical of you, Harry?

Harry Belafonte: Well, some thought that the public was going to have a big problem, because the public does not come from the same kind of a sophisticated sense of history and all the different things that I've been exposed to, so I think people are going to have difficulty. But then, people have always had a difficulty around the issue of race, slavery, and plantations...

King: Well, because many of the public would say, as you said, slavery is a great -- as a part of American history, many would say, the farther we get away from it the better, and referral was only taking it back to bad times.

Harry Belafonte: That would be true if the playing field were equal, if it were level. If all things were honorable. But the truth of the matter is that this country knows so little about what truly went on in slavery, black and white, that we're still living out its mistakes. We're still living out its principles, we're still living out its culture in -- in very hard ways.

King: Indianapolis, Indiana -- hello.

Caller: Hello. I'm calling to tell Mr. Harry how much I admire him for taking a stand, and I'm also an African-American, and I would wonder if he had an opportunity, would he serve politics, that he would make a difference to us because we need somebody to take a stand.

King: Would you ever run yourself, Harry?

Harry Belafonte: Well, I was put upon once to run for the Senate in the United States of America against D'Amato, as a matter of fact, and a lot of people thought that I stood a good chance to make a race out of it.

I stepped away from that because I genuinely believed that the platform that I have as an artist, the work that I do with the United Nations, sits above suspicion because I have no agenda, so to speak. I don't serve a political party. And I thought that my service to the things that I believe in and to this nation that I deeply believe in, was best served by staying where I was.

King: Did the Academy Awards this year impress you, two black Americans winning the top two awards?

Harry Belafonte: Well, I'm always pleased when black Americans are rewarded for some achievement. I'm always very suspicious, however, and I look very carefully at what does the award dismiss? What does it suggest is correct when, in fact, so much is incorrect? And I think that, you know, there are a lot of people who just said, for instance, Hollywood is not above the issue of discussing what goes on with racism. And one day, we should get into that debate about how blacks really think about what's going on in the culture of this country.

King: You mean blacks are not telling us what -- many blacks you know are not telling us what they really think?

Harry Belafonte: I'll tell you this, Larry, many black people still live out the -- the facade of the minstrel. We wear a mask. Much of what we say and what we do is done in metaphor, and done with subtext and other meaning, because we have not had the best of experiences when you go straight to the heart of the problems in this country, because this nation becomes so punitive when it hears the truth about us.

King: You discussed this with your old friend Sidney Poitier?

Harry Belafonte: Yes, Sidney and I have talked about it from time to time. We've not talked...

King: He's not the activist you are.

Harry Belafonte: No, he's not. Nor does he have to be. Nor does he have to be.

King: You don't criticize him for not being as active as you.

Harry Belafonte: No, no, no, no. No, no, no. I don't criticize him for not being -- people make choices they want to make. That's the point here in a way. We must be held responsible for the choices that we make. I'm not holding Colin Powell responsible for something about Colin Powell as -- as a man. It's about the things that he embraces, and the policies that he serves. That's the problem.

*    *    *    *   *

King: Morristown, New Jersey, for Harry Belafonte -- hello.

Caller: Hello. Mr. Belafonte, I heard you just the last segment talking about the fact that you are against the future killing of innocent American boys under the new -- this administration's new policy.

I'm the mother of a 23-year-old boy that was killed on -- Tower One because he was an American citizen. I really don't see where you think that you are -- this has happened already. Our boys have been killed.

I feel that you're talking first as a black man, as an American secondly, and that's saddens me and I think it would be sadden all of us -- the 3,000 families whose people were mowed down because we were Americans trying to live the American dream. My boy was killed because he went to work. And I just wish you would address that.

Harry Belafonte:I served in the United States Armed Forces and the United States Navy during the second World War as a munitions loader.

I've also served some of the most remarkable Americans of our century. I was embraced with and worked for Eleanor Roosevelt, John Kennedy, Bobby Kennedy, Paul Robeson. When you take a look at men like Martin Luther King, with whom I marched and served, and the more recent history, people of the moral stature, of people like Nelson Mandela.

I sit and I grieve with each and every American who lost some loved one on 9/11. And I also sit and grieve with every American mother who lost some son to the Ku Klux Klan. Tyranny is not exclusive in the experience of Americans just to 9/11. A lot of people have known terror and terrorism. It's a sad thing.

And I'm not first black and then American. I've always been and will be first American and then whatever I happen to be, like the mosaic that makes up this country.

And I'm sorry if what I have said and the way in which I interpret our policy offends you to the degree you think I am ignorant of and willing to dismiss the death and the pain that our nation feels. As a matter of fact, quite the contrary. It is precisely the pain that I know that this nation feels that I dread seeing us go through more of it, to lose more sons, more daughters, because we are being ill advised on how to deal with the ills of the nation.

Deal with hunger. Deal with poverty. Deal with disenfranchisement which is rampant among the 6 billion people who make up this planet. I see most of them. I spent time in Rwanda where 800,000 people were murdered in a matter of months. Violence is not mutiny, it's not new to the world. We've got to stop it and I make a plea for it.

And I hope we can find policies and thinkers and people who will come to their senses and lead us out of this abyss.

King: I only got a minute left but I want to ask you a question about rap music and it uses the "N" word a lot. There's a lot of denigration of women in music. You have any thoughts on it as a proponent of free speech?

Harry Belafonte: Yes, I think it's somewhat shoddy that we're constantly evoking free speech in the face of immoral, unethical conduct. If I had the choice of what to do about free speech, I'd fight to the death to maintain it. Even in the face of these transgressions.

But because there are a lot of people spinning off profit from denouncing their mothers, their daughters, putting themselves in their most degraded level of our social experience, and having it rewarded by the larger society is certainly not a way of working ourselves into a greater and more noble fabric of culture and human relationships.

King: So, Harry, in essence, you are glad you have restructured the dialogue.

Harry Belafonte: I'm very glad to have been given the opportunity to at least explain my point of view more fully. You know, there are a lot of "N" words and there are ways in which to deify someone or to vilify someone like Colin Powell. That was never the intention.

The idea that you work in the house of the master is almost in itself its own opportunity to do some mischief and to make a difference. But when you are in that place and you help perpetuate the master's policy that perpetuates oppression and pain for many others, then something has to be said about it.

King: Thank you, Harry, as always.

Harry Belafonte: The master in this instance is, of course, the president of the United States.

King: Good seeing you, as always, and thanks for doing this.

Harry Belafonte: Thank you very much, Larry, for having me.

King: Harry Belafonte, the famed entertainer, humanitarian and activist, and his point of view.

© 2002 Cable News Network LP, LLLP.

Source: CNN

Harry Belafonte (at 80) on Clinton & Obama Selma Campaign—"We are hearing platitudes, not platforms. What do they plan to do for people of color, Mexicans, for people who are imprisoned, black youth? What are their plans for the Katrinas of America?" Seattle PI

Belafonte, Harold George (Harry) (b. March 1, 1927, New York, N.Y.), African American singer, actor, producer, and activist, who has used his position as an entertainer to promote human rights worldwide. Belafonte continues to use his power as an entertainer in the struggle for civil rights. His production company, Harbel, formed in 1959, produces movies and television shows by and about black Americans. Belafonte's idea for the hit song "We Are the World" generated more than 70 million dollars to fight famine in Ethiopia in 1985. Two years later, he became the second American to be named UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador.

Harold George "Harry" Belafonte, Jr. (originally Belafonte; born March 1, 1927) is an American musician, actor and social activist. One of the most successful pop singers in history, he was dubbed the "King of Calypso," a title which he was very reluctant to accept (according to the documentary Calypso Dreams) for popularizing the Caribbean musical style with an international audience in the 1950s. Belafonte is perhaps best known for singing the "Banana Boat Song," with its signature lyric "Day-O." Throughout his career, he has been an advocate for civil rights and humanitarian causes. He was a vocal critic of the policies of the George W. Bush Administration.Wikipedia  

*   *   *   *   *

Sing Your Song

Harry Belafonte on Art and Politics, Civil Rights & His Critique of President Obama

Harry Belafonte, legendary musician, actor and humanitarian. He’s the subject of a new documentary about his life, called Sing Your Song. This interview was conducted at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah.    Belafonte Whited Out In Oakland  /  I'm So Pissed Off 

*   *   *   *   *

Harry Belafonte talks Civil Rights Martin Luther King + being Black in ’60s Hollywood with The Guardian—Leke Sanusi—3 July 2012—The stately Harry Belafonte is a historical force as well as a creative one. Having sung, danced and acted his way into the history book and the hearts and minds of music and movie lovers over the course of a six-decade career, the towering 85-year-old also marched, picketed and debated his way to changing the course of the world as we know it, playing a seminal role in the fight for Civil Rights.

A stunning triple threat, Belafonte stood, and still stands, as an imposing figure, catching the eye with his undeniable looks, but amazing audiences with his ability to entertain; he is truly a man born for the stage. A theatrical soul and spirit. Developing close relationships with several proponents of the nonviolent factions of the Civil Rights Movement, the son of a Martiniquan chef and a housekeeper of Jamaican descent soon became one of the faces of the battle for equality, standing alongside the likes of the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., and Charlton Heston.

An icon, a legend and inspiration, the one-time calypso recording artist has lived through and experienced the tectonic shifts in American culture. Belafonte watched as Reverend King was shot on the balcony of The Lorraine Motel in Memphis. He was 36 when JFK was assassinated in Dallas, 41 when Robert Kennedy was struck by three bullets in a kitchen passageway of The Ambassador Hotel. He celebrated as Lyndon B. Johnson passed the Civil Rights Act of ’68, and smiled on with the likes of Joan Baez and Alice Walker at the inauguration of Barack Obama.

The influential performer and activist recounts his experiences and tells the untold story of his life in the critically-acclaimed documentary, Sing Your Song.

The biographical film charts Belafonte’s growth and development, delving into his upbringing and mapping out the trajectory of his career. Directed by Susanne Rostock, the film begins with Belafonte’s birth in Harlem and then embarks on the journey of his life, highlighting his efforts in the quest for civil rights.

In a video interview with The Guardian‘s Sarfraz Manzoor and Cameron Robertson, Belafonte opens up about his life, Sing Your Song, and his book My Song: A Memoir of Art, Race & Defiance. He discusses his friendship with Martin Luther King, Jr., his relationship with JFK, and the inhumanity of segregation.

Speaking about his influences and the figures that inspired him to persevere in the face of discrimination, Belafonte explains:

In Harlem I saw all the heroes: Paul Robeson, Jackie Robinson, Joe Louis, Jesse Owens, Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald. We all lived in the same place; the poor and the rich. That’s not quite the way today. If it wasn’t for television, we’d hardly know one another. . . .I was befriended. Paul Robeson was the first one. Then came Dr. W.E.B. Du Bois — one of the greatest intellectuals of the 20th century. These men stood strong and tall in the terms of dealing with human degradation and human pain. They did things about it. Then there was a woman named Eleanor Roosevelt. She was the wife of the President of the United States of America. She threw her lot in with us, and was constantly in our community.

Powerful and impressive as ever, with undiminished gravitas and effervescence, Belafonte explores the culture and atmosphere of his life and times, putting things into perspective and reminding us all of the heroes, heroines and giants of the not-too-distant past.soulculture

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#1 - Justify My Thug by Wahida Clark
#2 - Flyy Girl by Omar Tyree
#3 - Head Bangers: An APF Sexcapade by Zane
#4 - Life Is Short But Wide by J. California Cooper
#5 - Stackin' Paper 2 Genesis' Payback by Joy King
#6 - Thug Lovin' (Thug 4) by Wahida Clark
#7 - When I Get Where I'm Going by Cheryl Robinson
#8 - Casting the First Stone by Kimberla Lawson Roby
#9 - The Sex Chronicles: Shattering the Myth by Zane

#10 - Covenant: A Thriller  by Brandon Massey

#11 - Diary Of A Street Diva  by Ashley and JaQuavis

#12 - Don't Ever Tell  by Brandon Massey

#13 - For colored girls who have considered suicide  by Ntozake Shange

#14 - For the Love of Money : A Novel by Omar Tyree

#15 - Homemade Loves  by J. California Cooper

#16 - The Future Has a Past: Stories by J. California Cooper

#17 - Player Haters by Carl Weber

#18 - Purple Panties: An Anthology by Sidney Molare

#19 - Stackin' Paper by Joy King

#20 - Children of the Street: An Inspector Darko Dawson Mystery by Kwei Quartey

#21 - The Upper Room by Mary Monroe

#22 – Thug Matrimony  by Wahida Clark

#23 - Thugs And The Women Who Love Them by Wahida Clark

#24 - Married Men by Carl Weber

#25 - I Dreamt I Was in Heaven - The Rampage of the Rufus Buck Gang by Leonce Gaiter


#1 - Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable
#2 - Confessions of a Video Vixen by Karrine Steffans
#3 - Dear G-Spot: Straight Talk About Sex and Love by Zane
#4 - Letters to a Young Brother: MANifest Your Destiny by Hill Harper
#5 - Peace from Broken Pieces: How to Get Through What You're Going Through by Iyanla Vanzant
#6 - Selected Writings and Speeches of Marcus Garvey by Marcus Garvey
#7 - The Ebony Cookbook: A Date with a Dish by Freda DeKnight
#8 - The Isis Papers: The Keys to the Colors by Frances Cress Welsing
#9 - The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter Godwin Woodson

#10 - John Henrik Clarke and the Power of Africana History  by Ahati N. N. Toure

#11 - Fail Up: 20 Lessons on Building Success from Failure by Tavis Smiley

#12 -The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

#13 - The Black Male Handbook: A Blueprint for Life by Kevin Powell

#14 - The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore

#15 - Why Men Fear Marriage: The Surprising Truth Behind Why So Many Men Can't Commit  by RM Johnson

#16 - Black Titan: A.G. Gaston and the Making of a Black American Millionaire by Carol Jenkins

#17 - Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority by Tom Burrell

#18 - A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose by Eckhart Tolle

#19 - John Oliver Killens: A Life of Black Literary Activism by Keith Gilyard

#20 - Alain L. Locke: The Biography of a Philosopher by Leonard Harris

#21 - Age Ain't Nothing but a Number: Black Women Explore Midlife by Carleen Brice

#22 - 2012 Guide to Literary Agents by Chuck Sambuchino
#23 - Chicken Soup for the Prisoner's Soul by Tom Lagana
#24 - 101 Things Every Boy/Young Man of Color Should Know by LaMarr Darnell Shields

#25 - Beyond the Black Lady: Sexuality and the New African American Middle Class  by Lisa B. Thompson

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To the Mountaintop

My Journey Through the Civil Rights Movement

By Charlayne Hunter-Gault

A personal history of the civil rights movement from activist and acclaimed journalist Charlayne Hunter-Gault. On January 20, 2009, 1.8 million people crowded the grounds of the Capitol to witness the inauguration of Barack Obama. Among the masses was Charlayne Hunter-Gault. She had flown from South Africa for the occasion, to witness what was for many the culmination of the long struggle for civil rights in the United States. In this compelling personal history, she uses the event to look back on her own involvement in the civil rights movement, as one of two black students who forced the University of Georgia to integrate, and to relate the pivotal events that swept the South as the movement gathered momentum through the early 1960s. With poignant black-and-white photos, original articles from the New York Times, and a unique personal viewpoint, this is a moving tribute to the men and women on whose shoulders Obama stood.

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My Song: A Memoir

By Harry Belafonte with Michael Shnayerson

Here is a gorgeous account of the large life of a Harlem boy, son of a Jamaican cleaning lady, Melvine Love, and a ship’s cook, Harold Bellan­fanti, who endured the grind of poverty under the watchful eye of his proud mother and waited for his chances, prepared to be lucky, and made himself into the international calypso star and popular folk singer, huge in Las Vegas, also Europe, and a mainstay of the civil rights movement of the ’60s . . .

His mother found refuge in the Catholic Church. The Holy Roller preachers of her native Jamaica were “too niggerish” for her. She loved the marble majesty of Catholicism and sent the boy off to parochial school to suffer at the hands of the nuns and took him to Mass every Sunday, dressed in a blue suit, and afterward to the Apollo Theater to hear Cab Calloway or Count Basie or Duke Ellington, Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald. . . .

Dr. King is one strong strand in My Song; another is Belafonte’s family saga through three marriages with four children; another is his inner life, psycho­analysis, the wounds of childhood, his gambling addiction; another, the oddity of show business, the casual flings, the personal manager who turned out to be an F.B.I. informer. Indelible characters pass by: Sidney Poitier, Eleanor Roosevelt, James Baldwin, Bob Dylan, Fidel Castro, Miriam Makeba.NYTimes

Tavis Smiley Interview of Harry Belafonte Part 1 / Tavis Smiley Interview of Harry Belafonte Part 2

Harry Belafonte for JFK Campaign Spot

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Salvage the Bones

A Novel by Jesmyn Ward

On one level, Salvage the Bones is a simple story about a poor black family that’s about to be trashed by one of the most deadly hurricanes in U.S. history. What makes the novel so powerful, though, is the way Ward winds private passions with that menace gathering force out in the Gulf of Mexico. Without a hint of pretension, in the simple lives of these poor people living among chickens and abandoned cars, she evokes the tenacious love and desperation of classical tragedy. The force that pushes back against Katrina’s inexorable winds is the voice of Ward’s narrator, a 14-year-old girl named Esch, the only daughter among four siblings. Precocious, passionate and sensitive, she speaks almost entirely in phrases soaked in her family’s raw land. Everything here is gritty, loamy and alive, as though the very soil were animated. Her brother’s “blood smells like wet hot earth after summer rain. . . . His scalp looks like fresh turned dirt.” Her father’s hands “are like gravel,” while her own hand “slides through his grip like a wet fish,” and a handsome boy’s “muscles jabbered like chickens.” Admittedly, Ward can push so hard on this simile-obsessed style that her paragraphs risk sounding like a compost heap, but this isn’t usually just metaphor for metaphor’s sake.

She conveys something fundamental about Esch’s fluid state of mind: her figurative sense of the world in which all things correspond and connect. She and her brothers live in a ramshackle house steeped in grief since their mother died giving birth to her last child. . . . What remains, what’s salvaged, is something indomitable in these tough siblings, the strength of their love, the permanence of their devotion.—WashingtonPost

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Exporting American Dreams

 Thurgood Marshall's African Journey

By Mary L. Dudziak

Thurgood Marshall became a living icon of civil rights when he argued Brown v. Board of Education before the Supreme Court in 1954. Six years later, he was at a crossroads. A rising generation of activists were making sit-ins and demonstrations rather than lawsuits the hallmark of the civil rights movement. What role, he wondered, could he now play? When in 1960 Kenyan independence leaders asked him to help write their constitution, Marshall threw himself into their cause. Here was a new arena in which law might serve as the tool with which to forge a just society. In Exporting American Dreams: Thurgood Marshall's African Journey (2008) Mary Dudziak recounts with poignancy and power the untold story of Marshall's journey to Africa

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery

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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of Haiti 

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update 18 February 2012




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Related files:   I'm So Pissed Off   Belafonte Whited Out In Oakland   Transcript of Harry belafonte-Larry King Interview