Artists and political leaders gathered to commemorate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and hear a keynote address by Dr. King’s personal friend, the legendary Harry Belafonte, Monday, January 21, at the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Howard Gilman Opera House.
Mr. Belafonte was joined by The Brooklyn Interdenominational Choir and Kindred The Family Soul performers to pay tribute to Dr. King’s “enduring legacy.”
In his speech which commanded a standing ovation, Mr. Belafonte noted that Dr. King was a “compassionate” man who listened to his followers. King, apparently, was concerned about where he was leading the people: he opined in the presence of Belafonte and other strategists, just weeks before his death in April 1968, that he was asking the people to integrate into a “burning house.”
In encouraging the audience to continue the work of Dr. King, by “fighting the machine” that builds prison cells not classrooms, legislates into existence “stop and frisk” procedures, and refuses to deliver a united condemnation of gun violence, Belafonte said, we must all be “firefighters,” which is what Civil Rights leader King urged Belafonte and his other soldiers to become.
Belafonte’s speech electrified the crowd, as did the inauguration of President Obama – following Belafonte’s speech — which was captured live from Washington, D.C.— on a big screen in the auditorium.
The words of President Obama, in D.C., included references to the poor and disenfranchised and the need for the nation to work on injustices, touchpoints in Belafonte’s powerful remarks.
Everyone in the packed hall appeared to understand the historical significance of being at BAM in the presence of two giants and their heir: Belafonte and the resurrected spirit of Martin Luther King Jr. – embodied in a gigantic image across the Gilman stage, and the most powerful leader in the world, Barack Obama, who stands on the shoulders of these Civil Rigjts giants. (Bernice Green)