Thursday, October 17, 2013

Harry Belafonte Quotes

1. People from the Caribbean did not respond to America's repressions in the same way that black Americans did. We were constantly in a state of rebellion, constantly in a state of thinking way above that which we were given. My people were gangsters and lived in the underworld. And I don't mean major American crime. I mean, as an immigrant, if you can't find work within the law, you find work outside the law. Running numbers and so on. Which is, of course, a characteristic of the poor, who find ways to break the rules, since the rules are always stacked against them.

2. I could have made $2bn or $3bn - and ended up with some very cruel addiction - but I chose to be a civil rights warrior instead.

3. The sham engineers of the music industry, who steer the wheels of public opinion, are driving the good features of calypso into the ground. I shudder to think what these greedy men will eventually do to this true art form.

4. (on Harlem, 2011) One of the foremost things that we suffer from, for children, is the lack of models, of tangible role models. A lot of us, as kids, had no such problems. Because then, a lot of the achievers were also required to live in the middle of Harlem, or in the South Side of Chicago. "Rich nigs" couldn't go anywhere. We saw Robeson. We saw Duke Ellington: he lived with us. Now, none of those heroic figures live in Bed-Stuy or the heart of Harlem. Now they live in Martha's Vineyard, Fire Island. In California, they live in Beverly Hills.

5. (on inspiring Robert F. Kennedy to greater concern for civil rights) To reach someone's soul, you have to have a social relationship…You can't just sit down in the cold world of legal jargon and settle the nuances of racism and what it does to the social and cultural fabric…The rich in America are so isolated that for Bobby to come into this intimate experience with its victims was a revelation. You could see in his face the anguish and consternation. It played away at his conscience and soul.

6. I wasn't an artist who became an activist. I was an activist who became an artist. Ever since my mother had drummed it into me, I'd felt the need to fight injustice wherever I saw it, in whatever way I could.

7. Our foreign policy has made a wreck of this planet. I'm always in Africa…And when I go to these places I see American policy written on the walls of oppression everywhere.

8. Knowing I was playing to an influential crowd, I'd snuck a little politics, with new lines for old songs, like "Michael, Row the Boat Ashore": "Mississippi on your knees, Hallelujah!/ Another bus is on the way, Hallelujah."

9. On all levels of life and as each day unfolds, respect for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. grows impressively, and the essence of this respect is the fact that he had deeper insights than most of us have appreciated. It is not mere poetry to call him prophetic. The accuracy of his prophecies is almost uncanny.

10. To me, faith as practiced all around me was blindly tied to religion, and religion was preachers in Harlem and Jamaica passing the hat for Jesus and driving off in fancy cars. It was nuns invoking the Christian spirit and rapping my knuckles with sticks. It was priests blessing Italian troops on the newsreels, sending them off to slaughter defenseless Ethiopians. I failed to see any good in the hypocrisy of that.

11. (on Barack Obama) There's a place for him, but he's the final determinant as to whether he achieves that or not. He needs to capture the imagination of a universe hungry for decent thought and passion. All he has to do is be truthful and have a vision for what to do and stop playing a goddamn game of politics. If he does that, he'll get everything he needs.

12. Fascism is fascism. Terrorism is terrorism. Oppression is oppression.

13. In the days of slavery there were those slaves who lived on the plantation, in shacks out back, and those who lived in the master's house. You got the privilege of living in the house if you served the master well. When Colin Powell dares to suggest something other than what the master wants to hear, he will be turned back out to pasture.

14. When I was 40 and looking at 60, it seemed like a thousand miles away. But 62 feels like a week and a half away from 80. I must now get on with those things I always talked about doing but put off.

15. You can cage the singer but not the song.

16. I was good as a singer, but I wasn't the best, and I'd known that from the start. I had to rely on my acting. And in the end I could make a case that I was the greatest actor in the world: I'd convinced everyone I could sing.

17. Unless you have had the experience of sitting in a village in war-ravaged Guatemala, or a humble, box-like room in the wretched South African township of Alexandra, or in a dust-covered hovel on a Native American reservation, or in the tin shacks that house the thousands who live desperate lives in East Kingston Jamaica, or in an overcrowded, below-poverty-level dwelling in a Ghetto in New York, Chicago, or Detroit, among people whose lives are dominated by their bitter struggle for existence and some bit of dignity, unless you've seen from these places the looks on the faces of small children as they watched Sesame Street or the Muppets, you'll never really understand what Jim and his colleagues have done for millions of children all over the world, children who have never smiled, nor dared to dream, had it not been for Jim Henson. I come from those places; I know these faces. Through them I came to fully appreciate Jim.

18. I believe that my time was a remarkable one. I am aware that we now live in a world overrun by cruelty and destruction, and as our earth disintegrates and our spirits numb we lose moral purpose and creative vision. But still I must believe, as I always have, that our best times lie ahead, and in the final analysis, along the way we will be comforted by one another. That is my song.

19. I work for the United Nations. I go to places where enormous upheaval and pain and anguish exist. And a lot of it exists based upon American policy. Whom we support, whom we support as heads of state, what countries we've helped to overthrow, what leaders we've helped to diminish because they did not fit the mold we think they should fit, no matter how ill advised that thought may be. 

20. One of the things that made New York particularly complicated was that there were no laws in the state or on the books that segregated its citizens. There was no law on the book that said: "A black person cannot live here. A black person cannot eat here. A black person cannot go to school here." It was all something we just understood. We didn't go below 110th Street. We didn't go north of 150th Street...or 145th Street. We didn't go farther west than Riverside Drive-well, I guess there's not much farther to go there! And we didn't go farther east than the East River. That was our ghetto.

21. It is my personal feeling that plantations exist all over America. If you walk into South Central Los Angeles, into Watts, or you walk into Over-the-Rhine in Cincinnati, you'll find people who live lives that are as degrading as anything that slavery had ever produced. They live in economic oppression, they live in a disenfranchised way. In the hearts and minds of those people, and millions of others, you're always looking for hope, and whenever somebody within our tribe, within our group, emerges that has the position of authority and power to make a difference in the way business is done, our expectations run high. Many times, those expectations are not fulfilled. But when such an individual is in the service of those who not only perpetuate the oppression, but sometimes design the way in which it is applied, it then becomes very, very, very, very critical that we raise our voices and be heard.

22. When my mother gave birth to me, the city so terrified her-the intensity of it, the complicated way people pass through people's lives-she thought the best thing to do was to take her children back to the Caribbean, let them be raised by the village, and then at some point bring them back to America. I stayed in the Caribbean from 1 and a half to 12.

23. Bring it on. Dissent is central to any democracy.

24. (on "The March on Washington") In the end, the day was a complete win-win. The Kennedys heaved a huge sigh of relief that there was not one act of violence. And to see at the end everybody singing "We Shall Overcome" and all the arms linked - we've said it often, but it's worth saying as often as necessary - there wasn't a dry eye in the house. And it was all of America. All of it. You went through that crowd and you couldn't find any type missing, any gender, any race, any religion. It was America at its most transformative moment.

25. Each and every one of you has the power, the will and the capacity to make a difference in the world in which you live in…You should go through life knowing: "I am somebody."

26. (on planning for "The March on Washington", August 28, 1963) In my instruction to my fellow artists when we met several times discussing strategy for what to do, I said: "The more we can find ourselves in the heart of the people gathered at the event, the more we can be seen and identified with the everyday citizen, the more we are all linking arms together - not just celebrity to celebrity, but a truck driver, a dentist or a housewife - and we're all linking arms together, the more powerful that imagery becomes". My task was to make sure that we salt-and-peppered the afternoon into the early evening to look that way.

27. I've always been supportive of the right of Israel as a state, and I've always fought against anti-Semitism, even in my own community.

28. We who came back from (World War II), having expectations and finding that there were none to be harvested, were put upon to make a decision. We could accept the status quo as it was beginning to reveal itself, with those repressive laws still in place. Or, as had begun to appear on the horizon, stimulated by something Mahatma Gandhi of India had done, we could start this quest for social change by confronting the state a little differently. Let's do it non-violently, let's use passive thinking applied to aggressive ideas, and perhaps we could overthrow the oppression by making it morally unacceptable.

29. My social and political interests are part of my career. I cannot separate them. My songs reflect the human condition. The role of art isn't just to show life as it is, but to show life as it should be.

30. This generosity that has been offered to the United States says very much about the Venezuelan spirit.

31. (on first meeting Martin Luther King) He had said that we would take maybe twenty or thirty minutes to just talk. It was almost four hours when we finally broke for breath.

32. You can be arrested and not charged. You can be arrested and have no right to counsel.

33. (remarks made to Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez in January 2006) No matter what the greatest tyrant in the world, the greatest terrorist in the world, George W. Bush, says, we're here to tell you: Not hundreds, not thousands, but millions of the American people support your revolution.

34. I think most important is that we have words that attempt to give us moral cleansing, so that somehow we hold those responsible for crashing into the Twin Towers and killing over 2,000 Americans citizens in cold blood, which is an act of terrorism - people who have done that should be sought out and brought to justice; there's no question of that - but when we do what we have done, illegal war, going into the Middle East, bombing at will, and then hundreds of thousands of people get caught, who are either maimed or over 100,000 have already been killed, who are innocent men, women and children, and we chalk that off to a thing called "collateral damage," as if somehow that murderous thing that we're doing so cruelly and so inhumanely has no judgment before world opinion, that we are somehow righteous and above criticism and above the law. That is unacceptable. And that's what I speak out against.

35. I think Bush has a very selfish, arrogant point of view. I think he is interested in power, I think he believes his truth is the only truth, and that he will do what he wants to do despite the people.

36. I don't think that we are a species or a people that can exist without making mistakes somewhere along the line. Some make mistakes that are greater than others. But I do believe that we should have the courage and the ability to look at something that we did, even if in the first instance we believed it, when in the wake of the aftermath and the truth, you find out that that was not the case, to then say: "Let me go back and examine what led me to this conclusion. What gods was I serving? What masters was I serving? What was it all about?" and then try to be more instructive to people who will listen to you. 

37. If you believe in justice, if you believe in democracy, if you believe in people's rights, if you believe in the harmony of all humankind - then you have no choice but to back Fidel Castro as long as it takes!

38. I have very little regard for consensus if it blinds you to the truth.

39. I've always looked at the world and thought what can I do next? Where do we go from here? How can we fix it? And that's still how I look at the world, because there is so much to be done. The whole world is caught in human suffering. And those who professed about making change have not come up with answers. We have failed in terms of the moral side. We have to do more.

What do you think of Harry Belafonte's quotes?

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