Harry Belafonte’s Family To Hold Public Celebration For Legendary Actor, Activist And Singer

Belafonte In The Studio

Singer-songwriter and civil rights activist Harry Belafonte in a recording studio, circa 1957. | Source: Archive Photos / Getty

A public celebration of the life and legacy of Harry Belafonte has been announced nearly nine months after the actor, activist and legendary singer died.

The details of the event were revealed to the media on Tuesday.

MORE: ‘We Love You, Mr. B.’: Ferguson Organizer On How Harry Belafonte Never Abandoned Black Freedom Fighters

Belafonte’s family is holding the “Celebration of Life” event on March 1, which would have been his 97th birthday.

The celebration is set to be held at the iconic Riverside Church in New York City.

The public celebration is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m., with doors to the church opening at 5 p.m.

Belafonte’s close friends and family are expected to give remarks and musical performances both in person as well as via video, according to a press release sent to NewsOne.

More from the press release:

The celebration will highlight his impactful life including his revolutionary work in helping to fund the start-up costs for the civil rights movement, his status as the first person to ever have an album sell one million copies, the first Black man to win an Emmy and his innovative idea for the global “We Are The World” fundraiser currently seen in the Netflix documentary “The Greatest Night in Pop,” and so much more. The celebration is taking place in lieu of an official funeral service which the icon decided to forgo preceding his death.

Belafonte died April 25, 2023, at 96. The staunch supporter of the Civil Rights Movement suffered congestive heart failure.

A pioneer in so many ways, Belafonte is arguably one of the most successful Caribbean-American signers of all time. His first album Calypso, which premiered in 1956, sold over a million records. With hit songs like “The Banana Boat Song” and “Jump In The Line,” Harry Belafonte’s rise to fame was inevitable. He would go on to perform on Broadway and star in numerous mega films such as Bright Road and Island In The Sun.

But music wasn’t Belafonte’s only passion. His support for the Civil Rights Movement ultimately defined who he was as a person. Belafonte was one of Martin Luther King Jr.’s confidants, often helping the family financially since King only made an honest living as a preacher.

Belafonte, along with Sidney Poitier, also helped bankroll the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee during the “Mississippi Freedom Summer” of 1964. He also served as chairman of the International Symposium of Artists and Intellectuals for African Children in Dakar, Senegal. Belafonte successfully leveraged his entertainment popularity to help drive social change all over the world.

Belafonte is survived by his wife, Pamela; his children, Adrienne Belafonte Biesemeyer, Shari Belafonte, Gina Belafonte, David Belafonte; two stepchildren, Sarah Frank and Lindsey Frank; and eight grandchildren.


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