Keynote Speakers - Evanston
Monday, January 28, 6:00 PM
Pick-Staiger Concert Hall
50 Arts Circle Drive
Tickets are not needed for this event.
Doors will open 45 minutes prior to even start.
About Harry Belafonte
Born in New York’s Harlem neighborhood in 1927, Belafonte is the son of Caribbean-born immigrants. He returned with his mother to her native Jamaica as a young boy. Following the outbreak of World War II, he and his mother returned to the United States, a transition Belafonte, a teenager at the time, found difficult. Unable to finish high school, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy and served for almost two years as a munitions loader. After his tour of duty ended, he was honorably discharged and returned to New York City where he worked in both the garment district and as a janitor’s assistant. He went on to pursue a career as an actor. His lead role in Otto Preminger’s film adaptation of Oscar Hammerstein’s “Carmen Jones,” took top critical honors, attracted Oscar nominations and made Belafonte a star. His recording “Belafonte” reached number one on the Billboard charts and started a national craze for calypso music in the mid-1950s. Belafonte’s RCA album, “Calypso,” made him the first artist in industry history to sell more than one million LPs. Belafonte also went on to become television’s first black producer, winning an Emmy for his CBS production of “An Evening with Belafonte,” directed by Norman Jewison.
Belafonte’s many firsts in the overturning of numerous racial barriers in the world of culture in America is legend. Belafonte met a young Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on his historic visit to New Yorkin the 1950s. From that day until the leader’s assassination, Belafonte and King developed a deep friendship that for Belafonte still stands as one of the most precious of his experiences. Disturbed by cruel events unfolding in Africa due to war, drought and famine, Belafonte set in motion the wheels that led to “We Are the World.” He contacted manager, Ken Kragen, and they, along with others, guided and directed the project known as USA for Africa (United Support for Artists for Africa) the name under which 47 predominantly U.S. artists, led by Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie, recorded the hit single “We Are the World” in 1985.
Belafonte was also prominent in the contribution to the ending of the oppressive apartheid government of South Africa and for the release of his friend, Nelson Mandela, after more than 27 years of incarceration. President John F. Kennedy appointed Belafonte to be the cultural advisor for the Peace Corps, a position he held for five years. In 1987, Belafonte was appointed as UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador and has continued to devote himself globally to civil and human rights issues, focusing in particular on the United States and Africa. Belafonte’s memoir, “My Song,” was released last October, in conjunction with an HBO bio-documentary titled “Sing Your Song.” A free screening of Belafonte’s film will be shown at 2 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 26, at the Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art, Evanston campus. For more on the documentary, visit http://singyoursongthemovie.com/the-film/.