I went to the Harry Belafonte talk last night at Strosacker and he lived up to his reputation as a plain speaker who does not shy away from telling it like it is. He again called Bush a terrorist and added “traitor” as well. He also confirmed that the reason he did not speak at Coretta Scott King’s funeral was that he had been disinvited when Bush said that he was attending, and confirmed the story that I wrote about on Monday about the splits in the King family about how to move forward.
But his talk was a lot more than that. It was a moving personal story about his life, the things he had done, and why he had done them. When he spoke of the people he had met with and worked with, it was a who’s who of all the people around the world who have helped make this a better place – Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu, Malcolm X. Harry Belafonte spoke about how he was completely won over by Martin Luther King at the very first meeting they had together and how he immediately dedicated his life to helping him achieve his agenda.
But more significantly, his talk was also a self-criticism, a fear that somehow he and his generation had failed in their intention to hand on the baton to the next generation to fight for justice, to keep its flame alive.
He spoke of his sadness at the plight of young minorities who are filling up the ever-expanding prison system. As a result, far from being retired (today is his 79th birthday) he is going around talking to young people in prisons and in the gangs to see what he can do. He spoke of his deep belief that the right to vote is the most powerful weapon for justice that we have and it should not be wasted and trivialized.
In the question period, it was clear that he had inspired many people because, unlike so many celebrities, he had risked his career at its peak, by speaking out and acting so strongly for justice. In doing so, he was following in the footsteps of his mentor, the great Paul Robeson.
Harry Belafonte looked and sounded terrific. Fighting for justice and speaking the truth has kept him vibrant and strong. He is a living legend.
POST SCRIPT: Film: THE RISE OF THE POLITICS OF FEAR
The Cleveland Institute of Art Cinematheque is hosting a special free screening of the documentary film THE RISE OF THE POLITICS OF FEAR on Monday, March 6, 2006 at 7:00pm. This documentary by Britain’s Adam Curtis is a three-part series shown on the BBC as part of their series on THE POWER OF NIGHTMARES and was broadcast in 2004. The program is 180 minutes long.
Admission is free but an $8 donation ($5 members) is requested. For directions and free parking information, see here.
An article in the Guardian titled The Making of the Terror Myth reviews the documentary, and says in part:
Terrorism, by definition, depends on an element of bluff. Yet ever since terrorists in the modern sense of the term (the word terrorism was actually coined to describe the strategy of a government, the authoritarian French revolutionary regime of the 1790s) began to assassinate politicians and then members of the public during the 19th century, states have habitually overreacted. Adam Roberts, professor of international relations at Oxford, says that governments often believe struggles with terrorists “to be of absolute cosmic significance”, and that therefore “anything goes” when it comes to winning. The historian Linda Colley adds: “States and their rulers expect to monopolise violence, and that is why they react so virulently to terrorism.”
Here is information from the Cinematheque website.
Here’s the most incendiary political documentary since Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11! Adam Curtis’ three-part essay, made for the BBC, dissects the war on terror by arguing that fear has come to dominate politics, and that the notion of a secret, organized, international terror network (e.g., Al Qaeda) is a bogeyman created by powerful interests to maintain control. Curtis, whom Entertainment Weekly has called “the most exciting documentary filmmaker of our time,” employs extensive scholarship, interviews, and revealing film clips to trace the parallel rise of Islamic fundamentalism and American neoconservatism – mirror images of each other in Mr. Curtis’ view. “A superbly eye-opening and often absurdly funny deconstruction of the myths and realities of global terrorism.” –Variety.