Who is Mr. Harry Belafonte? An American singer, songwriter, actor, and activist who has made an indelible mark on American culture and beyond. Born in Harlem, New York City in 1927, he began his career as a jazz singer in the 1940s and quickly gained popularity with his unique blend of Caribbean and American music styles, becoming one of the most successful performers of his time.
But Mr. Belafonte is much more than a singer. He is a trailblazer who has used his platform to fight for social justice and civil rights. As an early supporter of the Civil Rights Movement, he worked closely with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Malcom X, the black panthers to only name a few. And his activism extended beyond the United States! He used his fame to raise awareness about human rights issues around the world. A vocal opponent of apartheid in South Africa, Mr. Belafonte played a key role in the global campaign to isolate the country until it ended its racist policies. He also worked to support democracy and social justice in Latin America, being instrumental in helping to free political prisoners in Cuba.
Throughout his career, Mr. Belafonte has won numerous awards in recognition for his many achievements. Three Grammys, including a Lifetime Achievement Award, a Kennedy Center Honor, and the National Medal of Arts. He also was inducted into the rock and roll hall of fame in the Early Influence category in 2022, and is the oldest living person to have received the honor! Which of course, brings us to his most well-known legacies, his MUSIC. He has recorded countless albums, and his songs have become anthems. Many of which are still frequently heard and played in feature films to this day. “Banana Boat Song (Day-O),” “Jump in the Line,” and “Island in the Sun” are just a few of his many hits that have inspired generations of fans.
As we celebrate Harry Belafonte’s 96th birthday, we must recognize his enduring legacy as a singer, artist, activist, and humanitarian. By using his talents to promote peace, justice, and equality, his work continues to inspire generations of artists and activists today and tomorrow.