Harry Belafonte: ‘Faced with oppression, I had to act’

Singer and civil rights activist Harry Belafonte, 85, tells Sarfraz Manzoor (The Guardian) about his life and work in music, cinema and fighting for social equality—as chronicled in his new memoir. He also discusses his friendship with Martin Luther King, his relationship with President John F. Kennedy, and the humiliation that led him to become more heavily involved in the fight against racial segregation.

Harry Belafonte born Harold George “Harry” Belafonte, Jr. (originally “Belafonete”; born March 1, 1927) is an American singer, songwriter, actor and social activist. He was dubbed the “King of Calypso” for popularizing the Caribbean musical style with an international audience in the 1950s. Belafonte is perhaps best known for singing “The Banana Boat Song,” with its signature lyric “Day-O.” Throughout his career he has been an advocate for civil rights and humanitarian causes.

Belafonte was the son of Melvine (née Love) – a housekeeper (of Jamaican descent) – and Harold George Belafonete, Sr., a Martiniquan who worked as chef in the Royal Navy. From 1932 to 1940, he lived with his grandmother in her native country of Jamaica. When he returned to New York City he attended George Washington High School after which he joined the Navy and served during World War II.At the end of the 1940s he took classes in acting at the Dramatic Workshop of The New School in New York with the influential German director Erwin Piscator alongside Marlon Brando, Tony Curtis, Walter Matthau, Bea Arthur and Sidney Poitier, while performing with the American Negro Theatre. He subsequently received a Tony Award for his participation in the Broadway revue John Murray Anderson’s Almanac. Belafonte started his career in music as a club singer in New York to pay for his acting classes. The first time he appeared in front of an audience he was backed by the Charlie Parker band, which included Charlie Parker himself, Max Roach and Miles Davis, among others.

See interview here:

[Many thanks to Rod Fusco (Frontline News) for bringing this item to our attention.]

Interview accessed via http://www.commondreams.org/video/2012/07/04

For photo and full bio, see http://harlemworldmag.com/2011/10/14/hw-pick-harry-belafontes-new-book-my-song-video/

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