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Dominique James

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Belafonte's Song: A Call to the Youth

Posted: 12/ 5/2011 8:26 am

This column features stories from students exploring the intersection of creativity and technology through Hive Learning Network programs in NYC and Chicago.

November 11, 2011, Pritzker Auditorium, Harold Washington Library.

Promptly at 7:30, Harry Belafonte walks on stage, majestic in his pace, slight smile crinkled on his face. Mr. Belafonte has come to speak about his new book, My Song: A Memoir, and I am fortunate enough to be a listener. Though one of the few youth in the crowd, he says the book was intended for those like me -- young people. Mr. Belafonte speaks of yearning to connect with the youth and aid them in bridging the past with their lives. He says it pains him when the youth speak of things they know little about. His book aims to inspire and enlighten, and as I listen, I have no option but to allow him to do so. He works his magic, eyes closed, voice bright. He herds the audience like lost sheep to a past they either never knew nor forgot.

It is the summer of 1964, and steam seeps from the roads of Greenwood, Mississippi. College-aged protestors had swarmed and settled in the south in protest against segregation and civil rights abuse. But as August climaxed, they would have to leave, and anti-black organizations planned to attack during this weak point. If they were to stay, funds would be needed. Belafonte was called and requested to help -- he was a known advocate and vocal fighter. Belafonte quickly went to work and traveled to several cities gathering money. Now, however, he had to deliver the cash safely through white-owned banks and white-patrolled streets. He was followed and cornered, risking his life to cross to hell and deliver light for a more heavenly future. The money was delivered, thankfully, and Belafonte opens his eyes at the close of his story. They are gleaming, as they must've been in 1964. As his lids retract, it may have been 1964. The beauty of Belafonte's revolutionary spirit was tarnished by the ever-present ugly of the fight still being fought. Though he finished the story, the story itself continues. As our fighters depart as honored soldiers in the battle for freedom and equality, it is the youth who must answer the call like Belafonte in 1964 and continue living stories to be told to later generations of fighters. It is the youth who must be enlightened and inspired in the darkness. After the talk, I walked to the bus stop, spirited and encouraged, poems flooding my mind, eager to change the mind of someone of else, and sing my song, and the songs of those who cannot sing for themselves.

 
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