Monday, March 20th, 2006
We hear from legendary musician, actor and humanitarian Harry Belafonte on why he was disinvited from speaking at the funeral of Coretta Scott King and how he been blacklisted in places due to his political views.
As we continue to mark the third anniversary of the Iraq invasion we turn now to look at how critics of the war have often been silenced and punished for speaking out against the invasion and occupation of Iraq as well as the Bush administration.
On Saturday, Democracy Now interviewed legendary singer, actor and humanitarian, Harry Belafonte at The Great Hall at Cooper Union.
He revealed the story behind why he was disinvited from the funeral of Coretta Scott King even though he was a close friend of both Coretta and her late husband, the Rev. Martin Luther King.
According to Belafonte, the King family originally invited him to help eulogize Coretta Scott King but the family rescinded the invitation after President Bush announced he would attend the funeral.
Just weeks earlier Belafonte had made international headlines when he spoke out against President Bush during a trip to Venezuela to meet with President Hugo Chavez.
In a moment we will hear Harry Belafonte discuss the controversy surround Coretta Scott King's funeral but we begin with Harry Belafonte talking about how artists are punished for speaking out.
Harry Belafonte, speaking at The Great Hall at Cooper Union, March 18, 2006.
AMY GOODMAN: On Saturday, Democracy Now! interviewed legendary singer, actor and humanitarian, Harry Belafonte, at the Great Hall at Cooper Union here in New York City. He revealed the story behind why he was dis-invited from the funeral of Coretta Scott King, even though he was a close friend of both Coretta and her late husband, the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King. According to Harry Belafonte, the King family originally invited him to help eulogize Coretta Scott King, but the family rescinded the invitation after President Bush announced he would attend the funeral. Just weeks earlier, Harry Belafonte had made international headlines when he spoke out against President Bush during a trip to Venezuela to meet with President Hugo Chavez.
HARRY BELAFONTE: 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 – millions – support your revolution, support your ideas, and yes, expressing our solidarity with you.
AMY GOODMAN: That was Harry Belafonte speaking in Venezuela earlier this year. In a moment, we’ll hear him discuss the controversy surrounding Coretta Scott King's funeral, but we begin with Harry Belafonte talking about how artists are punished for speaking out.
HARRY BELAFONTE: It is in culture that I think we come to know one another. And we are in countries murdering, killing, destroying people, and we have never heard their song. And perhaps if we had and perhaps if we would listen to their song, we might find that we are not capable of sending off our sons and daughters to murder.
It’s a great place to be, in the arts. It's a gift that's very hard to define. So many great practitioners of art have already said so much, but there is a spirit in it. There is an essence in it, that if it’s applied to the human heart, if it’s applied to inspire people to trust, I think the rewards from it are forever.
One of the things that was a mechanism and a device used to cruelly punish artists who would speak out was to cut them off from their livelihood. They did it to Paul Robeson. They wouldn't give him a passport. Carnegie Hall wouldn't hire him or give – or rent him the hall. Many of the places that he had sung, where people loved him, were closed to him for a long period of time. But when that case was fought and won in the courts, he was nourished again, because everybody in the world was waiting for him.
And what has permitted me to sustain my own life in the midst of so much cruelty and degradation -- I’ve lost a lot from those who control culture, those who will not let my song be in the environment of their sponsorship -- just my remarks on President Bush, that he’s a terrorist, I lost a lot of work, even in universities, not even singing, just fraternities and students that have invited me to come to speak. Many of those doors in those universities were closed to me, because those who sit on the board and the board of trustees said we are displeased with what he said. He’ll have no place in this institution. And if he does, you’ll no longer have our support. So the president and the dean becomes frightened and becomes concerned. And it’s easier to let go than it is to stand against the oppressor.
AMY GOODMAN: Who cancelled your engagements?
HARRY BELAFONTE: A university in Virginia, a company called Eyecare. There is a difference between Eyecare, the foundation, and Eyecare – a country made up of doctors and scientists in the world of ophthalmology. I was supposed to have gone to Chicago, and they said, “No, we have to withdraw the contract.” That experience is not uncommon. But I say that there is a place when one has to really make a choice, and sometimes the choice is not easy until you make it, and then you understand the rewards that are there from the choice you made, which may have at the beginning frightened you or threatened you or intimidated you.
AMY GOODMAN: More with Harry Belafonte in a minute.