50 Quotes by Harry Belafonte

Harry Belafonte, a musical visionary and social advocate, crafted melodies that stirred the soul and fostered change. Born in Harlem in 1927, Belafonte's enchanting voice and captivating stage presence propelled him to become one of the most successful entertainers of his time. But his impact stretched beyond the realm of music. Inspired by his Jamaican roots and a passion for civil rights, Belafonte wielded his fame as a force for social justice. He was an unrelenting advocate for racial equality, using his platform to fundraise for the Civil Rights Movement and draw global attention to the struggles faced by African Americans. His rendition of "Banana Boat Song" introduced calypso to mainstream audiences, paving the way for cross-cultural musical exchange. Belafonte's legacy lies not only in his artistry but also in his ability to ignite conversations about race, politics, and human rights through his music and activism, leaving an indelible mark on both the entertainment industry and the fight for equality.

Harry Belafonte Quotes


Each and every one of you has the power, the will and the capacity to make a difference in the world in which you live in

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Artists are the gatekeepers of truth. We are civilization’s anchor. We are the compass for humanity’s conscience.

In the gun game, we are the most hunted. The river of blood that washes the streets of our nation flows mostly from the bodies of our black children.

If I've impacted on one heart, one mind, one soul, and brought to that individual a greater truth than that individual came into a relationship with me having, then I would say that I have been successful.

You can cage the singer but not the song.

I am who I am despite what America has put before me. I am who I am despite the obstacles that we have all faced based upon race and based upon social and spiritual humiliation.

Art in its highest form is art that serves and instructs society and human development.

Many who have nothing opposed to the few who have everything, and as long as these disparities remain, as long as these distances remain between people and forces, I think we'll be in a perpetual state of upheaval.

Bring it on. Dissent is central to any democracy.

These children and their parents know that getting an education is not only their right, but a passport to a better future - for the children and for the country.

We've come to this dark time in which the new Gestapo of Homeland Security lurks here, where citizens are having their rights suspended.

Where is the raised voice of black America? Why are we mute?

Our foreign policy has made a wreck of this planet. I'm always in Africa... And when I go to these places I see American policy written on the walls of oppression everywhere.

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In poor environment, I find great inspiration. Many of the men and women whom I admire as artists, the things they write, the songs they sing, the admission is filled with inspired moments to overcome oppression.

Since I have escaped the harshness of the economic bounds of poverty, I have stayed very connected to it spiritually. I reside and live and go and socialize and exist among those who suffer daily from the relationship that they have to poverty, Black men and women who are incarcerated. Actually, all people who are incarcerated, not just Black.

No matter what the greatest tyrant in the world, the greatest terrorist in the world, George W. Bush says, we're here to tell you: Not hundreds, not thousands, but millions of the American people ... support your revolution.

The USA has more people in prison that any other country, including countries with much larger populations. 13% of the population is black but 80% of the people in prison are black, mostly for soft crimes.

I think being born in America and growing up exclusively within the American boundaries of race and race oppression is a very different experience for those of us who grew up under the boundaries of race and race experience in the Caribbean or for those who grew up in Africa.

As a matter of fact, compromise is what oppression feeds on.

I don't find inspiration on Wall Street. I don't find that in Beverly Hills. I don't find that in places where opportunity resides unbridled, and I think the real creative energy and the real juice is in where people are caught, in the economic abyss.

Fascism is fascism. Terrorism is terrorism. Oppression is oppression.

There's an old saying in the days of slavery, there are those slaves who lived on the plantation, and there were those slaves who lived in the house. You got the privilege of living in the house if you served the master to exactly the way the master intended to have you serve him. That gave you privilege. Colin Powell is permitted to come into the house of the master, as long as he will serve the master according to the master's dictates. Now, when Colin Powell dares to suggest something other than what the master wants to hear, he will be turned back out to pasture.

Terrorism is in many, many ways the final utterance of voices unheard.

America can no longer afford to be as arrogant as we've been. We can no longer exempt ourselves from the global family of concern.

I don't know what America has really learned. We are too quick to do what's expedient on behalf of our culture of greed and hedonism. We're quite prepared to go to conditions of tyranny in order to sustain that culture, and we do it in the name of democracy, when nothing could be more undemocratic. We do it in the name of saving the values of our society, when the way we behave corrupts those values. We do it in the name of God in whom we believe, when in fact we have corrupted our own vision of the Christian journey.

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We Have Got To Bring Corporate America To Its Knees

If you believe in justice, if you believe in democracy, if you believe in people's rights, if you believe in the harmony of all humankind - then you have no choice but to back Fidel Castro as long as it takes!

When I go across the country, whether it's Albuquerque, New Mexico, whether it's Birmingham, Alabama or Milwaukee, Wisconsin, there are always forces at play that I choose to relate to and extract inspiration from, and as long as they stay committed to the struggle against poverty, I find a role for myself.

Bin Laden didn't come from the abstract. He came from somewhere, and if you look where ... you'll see America's hand of villainy.

I am a man who perceives life in a certain way, a man who rejects things that defecate on humankind, who rejects anything that will not give people room for dissent.

Why are we mute? Where are our leaders, our legislators? Where is the church?

When I was 40 and looking at 60, it seemed like a thousand miles away. But 62 feels like a week and a half away from 80. I must now get on with those things I always talked about doing but put off.

Turning against the church I also had to turn against a lot of the teachings of people in my family who were very much of the church and caught in it, and every time I turned to find where resides the good in the church, all I saw was the demonic, the Lucifer of the journey.

Although we had a lot of villainy here in America, Adolf Hitler was certainly the most visible illustration of what would happen if fascism went unchallenged.

I realized that most white Americans knew very little about our history and our struggle, and were having difficulty understanding the basis for our agitation and our resistance and our complaints. I also discovered that while black Americans had a sense of the beauty and tragedy of the journey from the time of slavery until now, we were not rooted in the specifics. I thought one way to familiarize people with that history would be through the voices of the great folk artists.

I think America offers a dream that cannot be fulfilled as easily anywhere else in the world as it could be fulfilled here. Although oppression was common to all of us, those styles of oppression gave us the opportunity to see the world in dimensions we didn't quite see growing up in any one place.

I've always been supportive of the right of Israel as a state, and I've always fought against anti-Semitism, even in my own community.

Anti-democracy is a virus that exists, and pro-democracy is the antibody to that virus, and I think we have to become vigilant, and we have to stay on top of the issues of democracy and freedom.

I became an anti-fascist, and the more I saw what was happening to the peoples of Europe, the Jews, the more I saw the deep cruelty and inhumanity of that system and its philosophy of white supremacy.

My formative years, until I was 12, was all shaped by Jamaican culture, by that economy, by the people in my family, who are agriculturalists, who were plantation workers, who harvested those crops and took them down to the boats run by the United Food Company, to load those ships at night, hence all the songs that I sing that come from that environment.

This generosity that has been offered to the United States says very much about the Venezuelan spirit.

I think [G.W.] Bush has a very selfish, arrogant point of view. I think he is interested in power, I think he believes his truth is the only truth, and that he will do what he wants to do despite the people.

The human spirit is resilient and truth - no matter how long you abuse it and how long you try to crush it - will, as Dr. King would say, rise up again, and in the final analysis will prevail.

Without compromise repression would be defeated. Just as some cancers feed on hormones, compromise becomes the hormone of oppression.

We have the opportunity now to look at the two billion people in the world who suffer from the most abject poverty, hunger, disease, and devastation. Add to that another two billion people who are just plain poor. If you look into the world of those caught in economic oppression, illiteracy, disease, and sexism, then you'll understand more clearly what we have to do.

To really know what progress we’re making for children, we have to know how many children we have to begin with. The simple act of counting is an expression of a country’s intent to take care of its people.

Poverty continues to exist. Its appearance seems to be relentless in evidencing itself not only to all the things we experience here in America, but certainly what we see globally. And I don't see anywhere any philosophical analysis that suggests we know how to get out of this.

Wherever I found resistance to oppression, whether in Africa, in Latin America, certainly here in America in the South, I joined that resistance. I took part in the labor movement, in social movements, in the church community. I felt that it was the honorable thing to do and still do.

Each time we arrive at a new level in extricating ourselves from economic, social, spiritual domination, we have a moment when we dance in the world of these new experiences, only to find that the music soon stops, the dance ends, and we're struggling once again to save ourselves from being thrown back into those conditions.

From the point of view of the poor, the hungry, the disenfranchised, the wretched of the Earth... there will never be peace until their condition has been alleviated and until their humanity is in full bloom.

Do not submit. It is extremely critical that repression be met full head-on and that it be resisted with every fiber in our being. There is just absolutely no compromise that can be made with it.

I'm called a folk singer, and I'm not too sure about that. I went about my life approaching music not from the point of view of a singer, but from the point of view of an actor. That's how I first started to sing.

Pop culture has none of the vibrancy that you find in the folk culture, where people speak directly to their own experience in the human condition.

I think now, with our technology, our capacity to grow food, our ability to stop raping the Earth and destroying the ecology and killing off fellow creatures, we have a chance to bring a new harmony and a new path to human development.

Hitler had a lot of Jews high up in the hierarchy of the Third Reich. Color does not necessarily denote quality, content or value. If a black is a tyrant, he is first and foremost a tyrant, then he incidentally is black. Bush is a tyrant and if he gathers around him black tyrants, they all have to be treated as they are being treated.

I think there's a lot that the larger society could have been taught or can be taught, but I'm not sure - given how unyielding the larger society has been - that much has been learned.

More than once my mother would point out: "Harry Belafonte is the best-looking man on the planet."

John say's it's James who started first, James tells the story in reverse. I drag my belt from off me waist, you should have heard dem screaming round de place.

Not since the early days of the civil rights movement has America been given an opportunity as great as the opportunity we have now. It's one thing for us to avenge our pain, our anger, and our rage by targeting bin Laden and a handful of men who have wrought this villainy. But one should be wise enough to ask, What fueled all this? What continues to sustain the possibility that this will not go away? I think the answer is poverty.

I delighted in the music of Africa, the earliest of the slave plantation songs, the transformation into Christianity and all that Christianity brought to the lives of the Africans who were forced to come to America.

Carmen Jones was the first all-Negro film that became a great box-office success. It established the fact that pictures with Negro artists, pictures dealing with the folklore of Negro life, were commercially feasible. This was a sign of growth that had occurred in the United States and throughout the world.

I come from a sense of struggle, a sense of using the instruments that were given to me to manipulate the environment in which I found myself, and joined up with those who are equally as skillful at manipulating that environment, as was I.

You can be arrested and not charged. You can be arrested and have no right to counsel.

― Harry Belafonte Quotes

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Tal Gur is an author, founder, and impact-driven entrepreneur at heart. After trading his daily grind for a life of his own daring design, he spent a decade pursuing 100 major life goals around the globe. His journey and most recent book, The Art of Fully Living, has led him to found Elevate Society.

 
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