Honoring and celebrating the life of Harry Belafonte

Published: Apr. 25, 2023 at 11:33 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - People all across the world, including here in Mississippi, are honoring and celebrating the life of Harry Belafonte.

He was known as a singer, actor, Civil Rights activist, and so much more.

Belafonte was 96 years old and spent much of his time fighting for justice and equality.

Although he is no longer here, many people believe his great works and achievements will never be forgotten.

“I said earlier I feel that we have been left with a great legacy and a great responsibility because he has shown us how we need to conduct ourselves as artists and activists,” said Maximus Wright, founder and executive director of the Jxn Film Festival. “I think what he did, by being a man of principle, and conviction, he showed us that as artists, we have the responsibility to build a platform that’s not just for ourselves, but to support and serve mankind.”

Belafonte played an instrumental role in paving the way for other African-American entertainers.

Although Wright never met the trailblazer who transcended racial barriers, he did draw inspiration from him.

“Once I made it to Tougaloo, I saw that he was an activist,” said Wright. “Once I realized that he had come to Mississippi, and he had fought in the struggle, and he even used his funds to fund the struggle, and even taking care of Martin Luther King and his family, that kind of spoke to that tradition at Tougaloo and what we were raised to be.”

In 1994, Belafonte and the legendary Sidney Poitier made a special visit to the Capital City to celebrate the success of a math program being taught in public schools called “The Algebra Project.” It was created by the late Dr. Robert Moses.

Belafonte also helped launch one of the first voter registration drives in the state and gave funds to the Freedom Riders.

Wright said Belafonte is a man who didn’t just talk the talk. He also walked the walk.

“One thing I always say, dreamers don’t finance visions, believers do, and he lived that by paving the way for the civil rights movement,” Wright said.

Belafonte died at his home in Harlem, New York, due to congestive heart failure.

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