Harry George Belafonte
Perhaps most easily recognized for his warm singing voice, Harry Belafonte is equal parts singer, actor, humanitarian, and activist for international civil rights. Born in New York in 1927, he grew up in both Jamaica and New York, eventually joining the American Negro Theater in New York, and taking home a Tony Award for his performances. His films and music, television and stage performances made him an icon, and his Emmy win in 1959-the first awarded to a black man-made him a cultural role model, but his fight for equality, peace, and freedom have made him an unforgettable human being. Belafonte stood against racial prejudice and by the side of his friends Martin Luther King Jr. and Sidney Poitier during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950's, during which time Belafonte refused to give concerts in the South, where racism still lived shamelessly. His persistence worked: as the face of America began to reform, Belafonte served as cultural advisor to JFK, helped organize the March on Washington, and eventually took his concerns abroad as a UNICEF goodwill ambassador: he travelled to Senegal, Rwanda, South Africa, and Kenya, supporting the arts, the campaign against HIV/AIDS, education for children, and basic human rights for African nations. Belafonte's efforts continue, and have been recognized by dozens of humanitarian and lifetime achievement awards, as he entertains and teaches, acts with civility, and demands non-violence and humanity for all.
"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."
"I think there is an absence of political insight and sensitivity and maturity that must be applied in order to deal with the ills that the world faces."