Recently, at the Beacon Theatre in Manhattan packed with long-time progressives, singer Harry Belafonte, at age 85, hosted an evening along with fellow singer Pete Seeger, age 93, and actor Peter Coyote, friend of Leonard Peltier. The message for the concert: Bring Leonard Peltier home, this year.
Boxer Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, formerly executive director of Association in Defense of the Wrongly Convicted, gave a moving account of how in a rush to judgment and in a glaring example of racial profiling, the justice system went awry and he was wrongly convicted.
Hurricane Carter served nearly 20 years and was on death row for a triple murder in New Jersey. A federal court threw out the conviction in 1985, saying that he had been convicted based on racial profiling.
In 1975, two FBI agents were killed in a shootout on the Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota. Two years later, Leonard Peltier was convicted and sentenced to two consecutive life sentences for first –class murder. He has served 37 years and is in bad health.
The question of whether he has received true justice is in question. Amnesty International has designated him a political prisoner. Peltier was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for six consecutive years, since 2009. He continues to be an author, artist, and activist.
The program, which started with a drum circle, highlighted Native American singers.
At the concert, folk legend Pete Seeger led the audience in his classic “Turn, Turn, Turn,” including never before performed stanzas that his wife wrote for children, decades ago.
Belafonte told how he personally suffered from government surveillance and interference. He said that he had just spoken with Peltier prior to the event and that Peltier responded that New Yorkers are still reeling from Hurricane Sandy and that the concert should be about raising awareness and not cash. Belafonte also noted that he no longer has a singing voice after having a stroke three years ago.
Common rapped for Peltier’s pardon and was joined by Mos Def who sang his hit, “Shine Your Light.”
A number of film clips were shown in-between musical acts, many featuring archival footage, which featured decades of advocacy for Peltier’s release.
Fellow activists, Danny Glover, Michael Moore, and former Amnesty International President Jack Healey were among those that pleaded for President Obama to pardon the Native American activist Leonard Peltier, jailed for 37 years.