Harry Belafonte (actor, singer and humanitarian).
An actor, singer and humanitarian, and the acknowledged "King of Calypso," Harry Belafonte ranked among the most seminal performers of the postwar era.
Born March 1, 1927, in Harlem, NY to Caribbean-born immigrants, he returned with his mother to her native Jamaica at the age of eight and remained there for the next five years. The island and all its variety became his cultural reservoir. At the outbreak of World War II, Belafonte returned to Harlem and over the next few years served in United States Navy, followed by work in the garment center and as a janitor's assistant. He later joined the Dramatic Workshop of the New School of Social Research under the tutelage of the renowned German director, Erwin Piscator, where Belafonte became thoroughly immersed in the world of theatre. That experience prepared Belafonte for an inordinately successful career, including becoming the first artist in industry history to sell over 1 million LP's, with his RCA album "Calypso"; his Tony Award winning Broadway appearance in JOHN MURRAY ANDERSON'S ALMANAC; his Emmy Award winning CBS production of AN EVENING WITH BELAFONTE (which also made him the first black producer in television); and his memorable role of Joe, the soldier, in Otto Preminger's CARMEN JONES.
In addition to his work as a performer, Mr. Belafonte has long been a political and humanitarian activist. He was a key figure in the Civil Rights movement in America, and his advocacy in South Africa contributed to the ending of the oppressive apartheid government of South Africa and release of his friend, Nelson Mandela from prison. He also set in motion the wheels that led to "We Are the World" on January 28, 1985, and directed the project known as USA for Africa. In 1987, Belafonte accepted the appointment as UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, thus making him the second American to hold this title - the first being Danny Kaye. Belafonte has continued to devote himself globally to civil and human rights issues, focusing in particular on the United States and Africa.
18th New York African Film Festival (April 6th - May 31st, 2011)