Our expectations were never fulfilled – Harry Belafonte

by Kofi Ayim

Freedom for the oppressed and humanity that some young Blacks fought for during the 2nd World War eluded them in the U.S. This assessment was made by Civil Rights leader Harry Belafonte, keynote speaker at the 28th Annual Celebration of “Sing in Praise of King!” organized by the City of Newark, New Jersey, January 14 at the Newark Symphony Hall. He said that Blacks might have helped to rid Germany from the curse of Hitler, but after the War they still had to struggle and fight a similar war in their own country against the same white supremacy bug perpetuated in Europe by Hitler and his henchmen.
“Our expectations were that the justice and equal rights we fought for in Europe would be extended to us back home, but it was not to be.
We had to continue the fight right here in America.” He quickly pointed out that after America’s genocide against Native Americans, they turned to a hitherto peaceful continent – Africa – and subjected its people to oppression and slavery and into the so-called New World where “justice still eludes us.”
The famous musician told the packed house that after he came back from the War at age 19, he could neither vote nor live where he wanted to, according to the dictates of race, and could not find a job because of oppression, segregation and racism. “America simply shut the door on us,” he said. These and other socio-economic issues that confronted the black community precipitated and convinced him and like-minded black people that violence and vengeance were the only way to keep the door open. Mr. Belafonte asserted that it was divine intervention that brought Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to speak with religious leaders at the Abyssinia Baptist Church, Harlem, and eventually met with some of the angry and aggrieved young black men.
Dr. King, according to the 89 year old motivational speaker was also in the City of Newark, New Jersey in 1967 to speak with and to an equally angry black populace. He said Dr. King suggested an alternative to violence as a tool for justice and equality. He wanted to know from Dr. King what would become of them should his alternative of peaceful struggle lead them into a “burning house,” of which Dr. King answered, “I think we’ll have to become firemen.”
Commenting on family values within the black community, Mr. Belafonte cited his own experience and said that the absence of his father in the family motivated and strengthened him to look up to Paul Robeson as a “spiritual father.” He praised the contributions to the Arts by black folks and opined that artists literally and basically built religion – from physical structures to designs; (religious) songs to written documents; and prose and poetry. He was however, quick to denounce hypocrisy in religion, especially Christianity, and added that “the temple of my faith is at the theatre.”
In a welcome remark, the Mayor of the City of Newark, New Jersey, the Hon. Ras Baraka said that he read the works and listened to the speeches of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on his own to deeply know and understand the civil rights icon. He urged the packed house to get involved in the process adding “I’m black on purpose and we’ll carry on the fight till freedom walks with us.” The event was hosted by Michele and Tobias Truvillion with musical selection by the Voices of Newark.

Posted by on Feb 14 2016. Filed under top stories. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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