Harry Belafonte: Activist first and always

admin | 11/16/2011, 10:39 a.m.

Legendary actor shares his amazing story at Miami Book Fair

American icon Harry Belafonte, 84, has never been one to mince words not during his heyday when he was dubbed the King of Calypso because of his silky smooth Jamaican tones and flair and certainly not today as he looks back over what he describes as a life of complexities. In his new memoir, My Song, he describes himself first as an activist and then as an entertainer. He visited Miami on Tuesday to speak with a packed audience at the International Miami Book Fair. During his trip, he spoke with The Miami Times and said what has mattered most in his life, other than his family, has been his ability to bring change in a world filled with injustice, poverty and hunger. I wrote the book to inspire young people who were born in a rural place on earth and find themselves in this vast place called life, he said. My mother was an immigrant with high hopes for her children. One might view my life was one of triumph but it done by an ordinary man who took advantage when opportunity knocked. Amazing people have always surrounded his life W.E.B. DuBois, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., John and Robert Kennedy, Paul Robeson I was constantly bumping into amazing men and women, he said. It was in my DNA to be a civil rights activist and an international spokesperson that was my destiny and my choice. I watched my mother suffer great indignities and saw her pay the price in order to bring comfort to her children. I wondered where was justice for her and was led to wake up every day with my eye on making this a better world. Meeting remarkable people only fueled my resolve to become involved in the mission to reduce poverty and speak out against injustice. I never attempted to shy away from who I was and never forgot that I came from humble beginnings. Belafonte says we should encourage our youth Belafonte says there is a lot that he still has not done but adds the caveat that he is more than satisfied with his life. I am constantly bewildered by the details of life, from a leaf on a plant to how the human body functions. My passion for knowledge about the unknown is my secret life. As I watch young people today, I admit that I am surprised. I never thought I would witness the resurgence of issues that we fought to overcome in my younger days. From Occupy Wall Street to youth across the globe protesting in the streets for freedom, its clear that todays youth know what they want. Where are the leaders today? Where were the leaders of yesterday? When Rosa Parks refused to get up because her feet were tired, she started a ripple that would change the universe. That was a miraculous feat. Institutions are trying to figure out what to do with youth today. But remember that when King started his work he was just 24-years-old. John Lewis, Diane Nash and Julian Bond were all teenagers when they got involved in the civil rights movement. When people face hard times they eventually grow weary and stand up demanding change. America suffers from desired amnesia those in control want to run for cover acting as if they dont understand. The questions that we raised when Dr. King was alive are being asked again. And through non-violent means, youth are looking for answers. By D. Kevin McNeirkmcneir@miamitimesonline.com