Tue | Sep 18, 2018

Humanitarian honours to Harry - Oscars academy to recognise Belafonte

Published:Saturday | August 30, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Then Governor General Prof Kenneth Hall (right) presenting Harry Belafonte with a citation as distinguished honoree at the St Ann Homecoming and Heritage Committee annual banquet, held at the Sunset Jamaica Grande Resort and Spa, Ocho Rios, in 2006. - File

Shereita Grizzle, Gleaner Writer

He already has international acclaim and is celebrated globally as a talented actor, singer, social activist and humanitarian. Come November, Harry Belafonte will add another award to his already impressive collection.

Belafonte will receive the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award, which is given to an individual in the motion picture industry whose humanitarian efforts have brought credit to the sector. The announcement follows Tuesday's voting by the Board of Governors of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences arm of the Oscars, which named Belafonte as one of four persons to be recognised.

The official presentations will be made at the academy's sixth Annual Governors Awards on November 8, to be held at the Ray Dolby Ballroom at the Hollywood & Highland Centre in Los Angeles, USA. The other awardees are French screenwriter Jean-Claude Carriere, Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki, and actress Maureen O'Hara.


In a release published on the official Oscars website, the academy's president, Cheryl Boone Isaacs, said the awards allow persons to reflect on lifetime achievements. Isaacs called the honorees outstanding members of the film industry.

"We're absolutely thrilled to honour these outstanding members of our global film-making community and look forward to celebrating with them in November," she said.

Although born in Harlem, USA, Belafonte had strong Jamaican connections. His mother was Jamaican and he spent his childhood years living in St Ann. Before he found success in film, Belafonte was initially recognised as a singer and performer, becoming known as the King of Calypso.

During his career, Belafonte has become vital to Jamaica's music industry and is credited with exposing the world to Jamaican folk music, especially through the song Day-O (Banana Boat Song). His Calypso album became the first to sell over a million records and was his second consecutive number-one album on the Billboard Top Pop Albums chart.

Belafonte was the first black performer to win a Tony Award (1954), and the first black man to win an Emmy (1959). He was also actively involved in putting together the Grammy-winning song, We are the World, to raise funds for persons in Africa.

Appearing in films such as Carmen Jones, Odds Against Tomorrow and The World, the Flesh and the Devil, Belafonte used his talent to bring attention to issues of inequality and racism. He was an early supporter of the Civil Rights Movement, marching and organising alongside Martin Luther King.

In 1987, Belafonte was made a UNICEF Goodwill ambassador.