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We pay our respects to Harry Belafonte, great people’s artist and freedom fighter

By Frank Chapman

Harry Belafonte.

Chicago, IL – We dip our banners of struggle for the civil and human rights icon, Harry Belafonte, who joined the ancestors yesterday, April 25, surrounded by family and friends in his New York City home. Belafonte was born in Harlem in 1927 and died at age 96. He always acknowledged that, “most of my family in Jamaica were plantation workers,” hence Day-O, or Banana Boat Song, had the lyrical line, “Come mister tally man, tally me bananas.”

Belafonte was a great artist who blossomed in an era that also spawned Paul Robeson, Lena Horne, Josephine Baker, and Sidney Poitier of the silver screen and stage. Belafonte and Robeson stood out especially as freedom fighters who were also blacklisted by the government for openly working with communists in the struggle for human rights and peace. He also marched with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and was an outspoken champion of civil rights and workers’ rights to organize and strike. He supported the Campaign to Free Angela Davis and All Political Prisoners and was a staunch ally of ours in the anti-apartheid movement calling for the freedom of Nelson Mandela.

It is hard to find words of tribute that can capture the depth, brilliance and genius of Belafonte, who stood among the tallest trees in the great forest of freedom fighting artists from the mid passage and dusk of the 20th century to the dawn of the new millennium in the 21st century.

Belafonte summed up his philosophy of struggle in these words: “I would say that you are really responsible for the world in which you live. If others happen to come along and join you in the spirit of your endeavors and your objectives to make the world a better place, then you’re the richer for it.”

Harry Belafonte is survived by his wife, Pamela Frank; three daughters, Adriene Biesemeyer, Shari and Gina Belafonte; a son, David Belafonte; two stepchildren, Sarah and Lindsey Frank, as well as eight grandchildren.

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