Harry Belafonte

We Must Unleash Radical Thought: Harry Belafonte’s Stirring Speech Accepting NAACP Spingarn Medal

Citys-Logo_change-color_GrAlong with his rise to worldwide stardom, the musician and actor Harry Belafonte has been deeply involved in social activism for decades. One of Dr. Martin Luther King’s closest confidants, Belafonte helped organize the March on Washington in 1963. On Friday, the NAACP awarded Belafonte their highest honor, the Spingarn Medal. “Numerous strategies in the quest of our freedom has been played out at all levels of the social spectrum,” Belafonte says in his acceptance speech. “What is missing, I think, from the equation in our struggle today is that we must unleash radical thought. … America has never been moved to perfect our desire for greater democracy without radical thinking and radical voices being at the helm of any such quest.” [includes rush transcript]


This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: “Harlem Nocturne” by Earle Hagen and Dick Rogers, performed by the Newark Boys Chorus, singing Friday night at the NAACP event honoring the legendary musician Harry Belafonte. This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman.

The son of Caribbean immigrants, Harry Belafonte grew up on the streets of Harlem and Jamaica. In the ’50’s, he spearheaded the calypso craze, became the first artist in recording history with a million-selling album. He was also the first African-American musician to win an Emmy. Along with his rise to worldwide stardom, Belafonte became deeply involved in the civil rights movement. One of Dr. King’s closest confidants, he helped organize the March on Washington in 1963.

Well, on Friday night, the NAACP honored him with their highest honor, the Spingarn Medal. He began his speech referring to Newark Mayor Cory Booker’s introduction.

HARRY BELAFONTE: Mayor Booker, that was heavy. I—I don’t know that I’ve ever been introduced quite like that before. And as you called out the moments that represent the crossroads of the paths in my life, I’m reminded that no matter how I am anointed for what it is that I do and try to do, it was never without the knowledge and the joy that what I said and what I still say was really rooted in the courage and the strength of so many remarkable people who befriended me and who counseled me and who became an intricate part of my journey. And to sit here and to watch you do the work that you do in the city of Newark, which is not a garden, not a paradise, but a place of remarkable struggle, you are to be anointed for how well you’re doing the job in Newark. But your mother didn’t tell you everything. But your daddy was my best friend.


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