Saying Bye to Belafonte

Legendary actor, activist, and singer Harry Belafonte has recently passed away at the age of 96. Belafonte was a pioneer in popularizing calypso music in the United States, which was musical style originating in the Caribbean. This led many to refer to him as the “King of Calypso.” Some of you may his song from the movie Beetle Juice.  Other than his calypso music, Belafonte was also an extremely talented actor and all-around performer, being one of the few artists who have earned the title as an EGOT holder (someone who’s won an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony award). Belafonte was actually the first Black person to ever earn an Emmy for his performance in 1959’s TV special, “Tonight with Harry Belafonte.” The legendary singer was also the first single artist to have an album to sell a million copies.

But what was more important than any song, production, or award he has ever had was his unwavering effort to create positive change in the world. Even up until his death, he continued to fight for what was right in our world. He was a friend of Martin Luther King Jr., fighting alongside him in the 1950s and 60s during the civil rights movement. He also supported the Anti-Apartheid Movement to help South Africa and was also featured on the star-studded “USA for Africa” artist group (a group that also included other legendary performers such as Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie) to support relief efforts from the 1983-1985 famine in Ethiopia.

The movie Carmen Jones starring Belafonte and Dorothy Dandridge will go down in history as a film classic.

Tributes have come pouring in for the late trailblazer. Vice President Kamala Harris said of him, “Belafonte had the ability to see what he could be and had the courage to see what could be and had the courage to work to realize that vision. He fought to help America live up to our highest ideals: dignity, equity, and justice for all.” Former President Barack Obama said, “He was a barrier-breaking legend who used his platform to lift others up. He lived a good life — transforming the arts while also standing up for civil rights.” And Rev. Al Sharpton, an important figure in the civil rights movement in his own right, released a statement, saying, “I am heartbroken to hear of his death but inspired by the long, fruitful life he led. …He used [his platform] to advance the civil rights movement and get others in his position off the sidelines. …He was a culture-changing entertainer, a history-changing activist, and an unmatchable individual.”

Belafonte played a major role in organizing marches on Washington and in contributing and helping to raise funds in the fight for civil rights.

Belafonte is survived by his five grandchildren, Rachel and Brian, through his children with Marguerite Byrd, and Maria, Sarafina, and Amadeus through his children with Julie Robinson. Belafonte will be remembered not only for his excellence on the stage, the screen, or the record player, but for his lasting impact on the world with his humanitarian efforts. He will undoubtedly be missed.


By Jermale Dabney, Sophomore, Lindblom Math and Science Academy

Instagram: @jermale_d


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Written by Jermale Dabney

Hi, I’m Jermale! I love roller coasters, theater, and Chicago sports.

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