“You can cage the singer, but not the song.”
As it was told to me by my parents when I was a kid. A story I have absolutely no recollection of. I was maybe 4 or 5, at a Harry Belafonte concert that my parents, who didn’t believe in babysitters, had taken me to. Again, I don’t remember a thing, Mr. Belafonte “allegedly” picked me up onto the stage and asked me my name and where I was from. “I’m Chris-toe-fer from Whee-tea-errr” I replied in my Vienna Boys choir soprano voice, prompting a hearty, sustained laugh from the man that, “allegedly” carried him through The Banana Boat Song. Naturally, I sat in my seat, clueless. “Come Mister tally man, tally me ba-nah-nah.”
“Although slavery may have been abolished, the crippling poison of racism still persists, and the struggle continues.”
At age 96, Harold George Bellanfanti Jr, singer, actor, producer, activist and legend took his last earthly breath, peacefully at his Manhattan home this week. Born in Harlem, NY, to father, George, a Martinique-born chef. His Jamaican-born mother, Melvine, a housekeeper. His career stretched more than 70 years. A legacy that will live forever. He was an important voice in the civil rights movement in the 60’s, sponsoring the historic March on Washington. An outspoken opponent of South Africa’s apartheid policies, of the US embargo in Cuba and other causes too numerous to mention. He served in the United States Navy during WWII. In 1953, he was cast as Joe in Carmen Jones opposite Dorothy Dandridge, vaulting him to one of the top leading Black men in Hollywood. But, that voice! “Daylight come and me want go home.”
“I am who I am despite what America has put before me. I am who I am despite the obstacles that we all faced based upon race and based upon social and spiritual humiliation.”
Harry Belafonte, the King of Calypso, changed the culture while maintaining a standard of excellence. Obviously, I saved his set that night at the Sports Arena in Los Angeles in the early 70’s, I also loved him as an actor. Nearly unrecognizable in Uptown Saturday Night, directed by his longtime friend, Sidney Poitier. The classic story of him trying to find an apartment for him and his family in New York in 1958. Being acutely aware of the prejudice in renting to people of color, he allegedly rented an apartment on the Upper West Side through his white manager. When exposed, he was asked to leave by the owner. Instead, he organized a group to buy the entire building. He encouraged his friends to move-in, turning it into a successful Co-Op. We are all beneficiaries of his talent and humanity. RiP. “Day-o, Day-o.”
One of Belafonte’s legacies was his dedication to promoting others. To carry on that legacy, let’s take a look a some great tributes that don’t make the headlines. For instance, Jayla Jackson and Emani Stanton (above) making history. As the first ever black female duo to win the prestigious international debate competition at Harvard University. They bested more than a hundred debaters from around the world. By the way, they’re 16 and 17, students at North Atlanta High and Holy Innocents Episcopal and members of the Harvard Diversity Project. Cheers!
In the agent world of the NFL, and all sports, women are like unicorns. Nicole Lynn, agent to quarterback Jalen Hurts of the Philadelphia Eagles, has defied the odds. This month, she negotiated a contract making him the highest-paid player in the league’s history, with a guarantee that includes nearly $180 million. Well done.
Growing up in a small town 3 hours south of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in a home that was a round mud hut without electricity, the Dibaba sisters grew up to be the fastest group of siblings in the world. A family of 7 who all run, credit their success to growing up in a loving family. Their parents were farmers in Ethiopia. Mom also credits the fresh milk they drank daily from the family cows. So, maybe it’s not what’s in the water, but, the milk? Amazing achievements. How the Dibaba sisters became the fastest siblings on earth.
Big tribute to Mike Tyson. If you’re old like me, you remember well those 1-minute knock-outs in the 80’s that put fear in us all, especially his opponents. Subsequently, it seemed like his future after boxing would prove worrisome at best. Bad financial decisions and trusting the wrong people left one not knowing how he’d end up. Well, I’ve never been so happy for someone I’ve never met. “Iron” Mike is so successful, he has his own line of cannabis edibles, called “Mike bites” that, apparently, you can’t keep on the shelves. Mike Tyson net worth: 2023
The President was well-guarded on “take your kids to work day.”
If you read my blog, Sidney Poitier-In Memoriam, you’ll recall the loss I felt when I learned of his passing. However, I also felt a sense of deep gratitude. Similarly, the same goes for Mr. Belafonte. I feel privileged to have seen and felt his impact on black entertainment and the world. I remember when he endorsed Bernie Sanders. Always progressive. He walked the walk and talked the talk. A vocal critic of the Bush and Trump administrations, he was still making appearances and writing until the end, further proving his relevance. Also, that age is just a number. Thank you, Mr. Belafonte. Thanks for reading.
I cannot choose between Sidney Pointier and Harry Belafonte. I only know them from their Movies and songs. They always spoke to me as intelligent, caring, people.
I agree, Gayle. Impossible choice.