There’s been what seems like a nonstop stream of condolences for and tributes to Harry Belafonte after the legendary actor and activist died on Tuesday, underscoring the indelible impact his life had on not just Black people but also the world.
Everybody from the worlds of social justice and human rights — where Belafonte made his mark giving a voice to the voiceless — to politicians and everyday people have been devastated by his death.
But they also recognize the world is a better place because Belafonte, a Harlem native and Jamaican American, blessed us with his presence and desire to achieve equality for everyone.
That’s certainly how former President Barack Obama remembered Belafonte, who celebrated the icon’s life in part on Twitter.
“Harry Belafonte was a barrier-breaking legend who used his platform to lift others up,” Obama tweeted. “He lived a good life – transforming the arts while also standing up for civil rights. And he did it all with his signature smile and style. Michelle and I send our love to his wife, kids, and fans.”
Rev. Al Sharpton, Founder and President of the National Action Network, fondly remembered Belafonte as a pioneer.
“Harry Belafonte was a true mentor and friend. I am heartbroken to hear of his death but inspired by the long, fruitful life he led,” Sharpton said in a statement emailed to NewsOne. “He realized his platform gave him the ability to affect change. He used it to advance the Civil Rights Movement and get others in his position off the sidelines. I cherished the time he would give me and others to both guide and correct us. He was a culture-changing entertainer, a history-changing activist, and an unmatchable intellectual. Rest in peace and power, Mr. B.”
The legendary Motown music mogul, Berry Gordy, said he would miss Belafonte.
“My friend, Harry Belafonte, was truly a man of cause, conviction and principle. Besides being a great entertainer, he was a major political activist during the Civil Rights Movement,” Gordy said in a statement sent to NewsOne. “I still remember the day in 1968 when Harry and I marched side by side on the Poor People’s March to Freedom. He will be missed and my sincere condolences go out to his family.”
The Legal Defense Fund (LDF) fondly remembered Belafonte’s contributions to human rights.
“As part of his international human rights advocacy, Mr. Belafonte joined forces with South African President Nelson Mandela to fight against apartheid,” the LDF said in a statement. “Moreover, he played a key role in forming USA for Africa, raising millions of dollars alongside other artists for hunger relief. Mr. Belafonte also memorably became a goodwill ambassador at UNICEF, serving as a chairman for the International Symposium of Artists and Intellectuals for African Children to advocate for social justice.”
Rashad Robinson, President of Color Of Change, called Belafonte “one of the most prominent racial justice and cultural leaders to grace this earth” and credited him with paving the way so that organizations like Color Of Change can not only exist but thrive.
“He was one of the earliest racial justice leaders to understand and use the power of culture to change our society. It is because of Mr. Belafonte’s sacrifices and leadership, that we are able to continue this work and for that, we are eternally grateful,” Robinson said in a statement before adding later: “We encourage his supporters to lean in on an important lesson that he’s taught us throughout his career — Black joy. Mr. Belafonte taught us that the greatest form of rebellion is giving ourselves permission to feel joy and that is the greatest gift of all.”
Colin Kaepernick, who had his career threatened over his activism, credited Belafonte with being a trailblazer.
“Thank you, Mr. B, for all of your years of mentorship, guidance, & lifetime of activism fighting for a better future for all of us,” Kaepernick tweeted. “You will be missed by many, but your memory & impact live on. Rest in Power.”
Kaepernick punctuated his tweet with a timeless and fitting quote from Belafonte: “Movements don’t die, because struggle doesn’t die.”
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