More than ‘Day-O’ Belafonte’s legacy is lasting

Activist and entertainer Harry Belafonte gives the keynote address for the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Symposium at Hill Auditorium on the University of Michigan campus in Ann Arbor, Mich., for Martin Luther King Jr. Day, on Monday, Jan. 20, 2014.
AP Photo/The Ann Arbor News, Melanie Maxwell
AP Photo/The Ann Arbor News, Melanie Maxwell

One year and one month ago when the Brooklyn Academy of Music celebrated the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., with its “Come Share The Dream” annual, the occasion coincided with the second inauguration ceremonies for the 44th U.S. leader of the United States, President Barack Obama. The second largest national attraction invited actor/activist and Harry Belafonte to keynote the New York event. Those who packed into BAM received a double-dose of cultural and historic treat as the Washington D.C. beamed live broadcast of the swearing-in ceremony. Afterwards, a live message from Belafonte retraced decades of Civil Rights struggle and achievement that on that date witnessed the second such inauguration of the first, African-American president elected in the United States.

Belafonte’s poignant keynote, punctuated the Dream Dr. King envisioned and hoped for the nation. An immigrants’ son amplified and clarified much that date to honor his friendship and long association with Dr. King. While much of Belafonte’s creative talents are widely known, here are a few lesser-known facts about the singer/actor/Civil Rights activist which should be acknowledged during this month.

1.Harry Belafonte’s real name is Harold George Bellanfanti, Jr.

2.Before Belafonte became a well-known singer, he enlisted into the United States Navy and served during World War II.

3.Belafonte has been actively involved as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador since 1987.

4.In 1996 Belafonte was diagnosed with prostate cancer. He has since been treated for the disease and is an active advocate to raise awareness.

5.Belafonte’s third album, “Calypso,” sold more than 1 million copies in its first year and also became number four on Billboard’s “Top 100 Album” list. It spent 31 weeks at number 1 and 99 weeks on the U.S. charts.

6. “Bright Road” released in 1953 was Belafonte’s first film role. He played alongside Dorothy Dandridge, which is also his co-star in the hit musical “Carmen Jones.”

7.On Jan. 11, 2014, Belafonte became an honorary member of the Phi Beta Sigma fraternity.

8.At the 2011 Sundance Film Festival, “Sing Your Song” was featured as a biographical documentary film based on Harry Belafonte’s leadership and contribution in the civil rights movement

9.As a great friend, Harry Belafonte helped raise $50,000 so that Martin Luther King, Jr could use it as bail money.

10.In 2000, Belafonte won a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.

More from Around NYC