Jamaican-American singer, actor and humanitarian Harry Belafonte presented the 2009 ASCAP-Harry Chapin Humanitarian Award to Wyclef Jean at the 2009 WHY (World Hunger Year) awards gala at the Lighthouse at Chelsea Piers in New York City. Belafonte, a previous recipient of the award for his contributions to the civil rights, anti-war and anti-apartheid movements, saluted his fellow Caribbean musician for his creation of Yéle Haiti, the four-year-old nonprofit foundation Wyclef established to bring back hope to his native country. “Wyclef’s greatest contribution can’t easily be measured because Wyclef himself has said the greatest accomplishment is giving hope to young kids,” noted Belafonte. “Yéle Haiti allows kids to dream – they have not dreamt often, and most of the time their dreams have been nightmares. That’s what got me here – dreaming.” Yéle Haiti’s work focuses on food distribution, aid for hurricane victims and job creation efforts in Haiti.
Trinidadian Simon Khan, Chief Executive Officer of Antilia, a New York-based Caribbean special events company and entertainment brand that helped promote and produce the Awards, said he was delighted to see Harry Belafonte from Jamaica, Wyclef Jean from Haiti and Slinger “The Mighty Sparrow” Francisco from Trinidad and Tobago/ Grenada give their time last week to highlight the growing problem of world hunger and the challenges facing the Caribbean nation of Haiti. “This once again goes to show the power of the Caribbean-American Diaspora and what can be done on an international stage when we leverage our talents for good,” he said. Accepting the award, Jean reminisced about his own battle with poverty and struggle to make ends meet while growing up in Haiti. He encouraged humanitarian groups to focus on sustainability when helping the poor: “When you are going to feed a child, remember it’s about sustainability – the reality is that you have to give them the (fishing) rod and the boat and they won’t come back to you no more.”
Also honored at the event were Growing Power (Milwaukee, WI), a national non-profit organization and land trust, WFAN Sports Radio 66, the flagship station for the New York Mets, New York Giants, New Jersey Devils and New Jersey Nets, as well as several 2008 Harry Chapin Self-Reliance Award winners, representing grassroots organizations in the United States that have moved beyond charity to create change in their communities.
Photo: Harry Belafonte, Wyclef Jean, and The Mighty Sparrow.