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Harry Belafonte

Source: United Archives / Getty

 

The world is mourning the loss of the legendary actor Harry Belafonte.

The actor and activist passed away Tuesday (April 25), at home with his wife by his side. He was 96.

Known for popularizing calypso music and the hit song “Day-O (The Banana Boat Song)” and starring in films like Carmen Jones and Island in the Sun, it was what he did outside of tinsel town that solidified his legacy.

Belafonte was a significant supporter of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s and a close friend and supporter of Markin Luther King Jr. He reportedly even bailed King out of jail once in Birmingham, Alabama and helped organize the 1961 Freedom Rides.

The Calypso King was a lifetime New Yorker, and that’s even where he met MLK before he spoke at Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem.

“He was coming to New York to speak to the ecumenical community about supporting the civil rights movement, and he wanted to meet for a few minutes. After Dr. King spoke, he and I retired to the basement of the church, in a room for Sunday school. It was just us at a card table with straight-back chairs,” he told the New York Post in 2012. “What was supposed to be a few minutes led to almost four hours. I liked his courage, his thoughts, his ideas and his mission. I committed to him after that.”

His activism didn’t stop stateside; he was also staunchly against apartheid in South Africa, led support of those facing HIV/AIDS and was the mastermind behind the Grammy-winning 1985 hit song “We Are the World” to help raise money for famine in Africa.

His switch from movie star to activist wasn’t as big of a switch as many think, because helping others was something top of mind.

“The portion of my life that is of importance to me has to do with my activism. I’ve often responded to queries that ask, ‘When as an artist did you decide to become an activist?’” he told the Dallas News in 2011. “My response to the question is that I was an activist long before I became an artist. They both service each other, but the activism is first.”

The Black community has come together to thank Belafonte for the gifts he shared with the world.

“Harry Belafonte is one of the greatest social activists and freedom fighters ever to have lived,” said Cathy Hughes, Chairwoman & Founder of Urban One Inc. “Humanity has just suffered a significant wound to its consciousness.”

He made his last film appearance in Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman in 2018.

See how Twitter saluted the legend below.

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