Saturday, January 21, 2006

Harry Belafonte, American Patriot

NEW YORK (AP) -- Entertainer Harry Belafonte, one of the Bush administration's harshest critics, compared the Homeland Security Department to the Nazi Gestapo on Saturday and attacked the president as a liar. Full story here.

This isn't the first time Mr. Belafonte has exercised his right to free speech. Most of you will remember his speech last week in Venezuela in which he referred to George Bush as "the greatest terrorist in the world" while speaking to Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

But wait, there's more. You may recall that back in October of 2002, Harry Belafonte compared then Secretary of State Colin Powell to a "house slave" for adhering to the Bush Administration's party line. He also stated that then National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice had turned her back on black people.

Clearly, Mr. Belafonte is not afraid to speak his mind and is no stranger to controversy. Let's take a brief look at Harry Belafonte's life:

Born in Harlem, New York in 1927, Harry Belafonte lived with his mother in her native Jamaica from 1935 to 1939. After returning to New York, he attended George Washington High School which he dropped out of to enlist in the U.S. Navy and serve in World War II. (That's right folks, he's a military veteran who despises war. Are we seeing a trend here? )

After serving in World War II he returned to New York and began a successful acting and singing career. Belafonte is perhaps best known for singing the "Banana Boat Song" with its signature lyric "Day-O." His breakthrough album Calypso (1956) was the first full-length album to sell over 1 million copies.

Along with his rise to worldwide stardom, he became deeply involved in the Civil Rights Movement. In 1956, he met the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King and the two quickly became friends.

Belafonte sent money to bail Dr. King out of the Birmingham City Jail and raised thousands of dollars to release other imprisoned protesters. He financed the Freedom Rides, and supported voter-registration drives and helped to organize the March on Washington in 1963.

In the 1980's he helped initiate the star-studded "We Are the World" single, which raised tens of millions of dollars for famine relief in Ethiopia, calling global attention humanitarian crises in Africa.

A longtime anti-apartheid activist, Belafonte hosted former South African President Nelson Mandela on his triumphant visit to the United States. In 1987 he was appointed a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador.

Belafonte has been a longtime critic of U.S. foreign policy, calling for an end to the embargo against Cuba, and opposing policies of war and global oppression.

It's heroes like Harry Belafonte who make me proud to be an American.

Biographical facts from several sources, but primarily from Democracy Now.

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