TheOrator.Press: Nature’s Natural Goodbye. A Personal Sunset. One’s Last Earth Day. Civil Rights Leader, Actor And Humanitarian Ambassador Harry Belafonte ~ April 2023 ~

Harry Belafonte

March 1 1927 ~ April 25 2023 (Died Aged 93)

Harry Belfafonte Had His Last Earth Day On Tuesday April 25 2023 In New York. He Was 93 Years Old And Had Been For Just Over A Month And Three Quarters.

His Mother Was A Jamaican Who Left The Country, Geographically Situated Very Near To America, To Come To The United Stated For A Better Life. However By The Time Harry Was Born She Was So Disillusioned, Including With Harry’s Alcoholic And Violent Father, That She Returned To The Caribbean Island, Where Harry Grew Up Until The Age of 12.

Acting Career

Like His Good Friend & Fellow Actor Sidney Poitier, He Started Out At What Was Then Known As The American Negro Theatre. Many of America’s Established Senior Actors Started Out There Too.

With Belafonte It Was Working Within The Context of The Acting Community That Really Sparked His Association With Politics Virtually From Day One. As Such One Can Learn A Great Deal About Harry’s Dedication To Humanit And Humanitarian Causes From The History of The Then So-Called American Negro Theatre (ANT).

Prior To The Launch of The ANT (In 1940) There Had Been The Federal Theatre Project (FTP: 1935 ~ 1939). This Was Part of The Economic New Deal Programme Initiated Under The Roosevelt Recovery Programme Following The Great Depression of 1929-1933, Caused By The Wall Street Crash. It Was Funded Under The Emergency Relief Administration And Civil Works Administration Act of 1935. And It Was Processed Under The Government Body Called ‘Work Progress Administration’ (WPA).

Practically The Federal Theatre Project Served A Duel Purpose. Firstly Work For Otherwise Out of Work Artists, Writers, Directors And Producers, Crew Members And Theatre Workers On One Hand. And Cultural Entertainment For American Citizens On The Other.

There Was One Production In Particular That Caught Their Ire Right From The Start. This Was A Style of Play Called ‘Living Newspapers’ Which As The Name Suggests Featured Newspaper Stories Being Used As The Foundation For Theatre Productions. In 1936 Such A Play Featuring Ethiopia’s Leader Haile Selassie Objectioning To Mussolini Invading His Country Resulted In The Government Subsequently Decreeing That Foreign Leaders Could Not Be Portrayed on Stage In Plays Lest It Caused Diplomatic Outrage.

The Negro Actors Guild of America Was Established October 1st 1936 During This Time. And In 1936 Orsen Wells Directed “Voodoo Macbeth” A Curious Adaptation of The Famous Shakespeare Play Set In Haiti, Based On The Haiti Enslavement Revolution And Henri Christophe The Country’s Only Ever Monarch. He Was of West African Origins And A Member of The Bambara People.

The Federal Theatre Project Was Largely A Success. Especially With The Public.

Recognising The Diversity Within The Thespian Community The Federal Theatre Subsequently Permitted Racially Designated Chapters Such As LA’s French Theatre, NY’s German Theatre And Throughout The Country Various NTUs (Negro Theatre Units). Outrageous Today of Course. New York Had The Biggest And Most Famous Ones. Lafayette Theatre And The Negro Youth Theatre Both Dedicated To The Developing Talent From The Harlem Community. There Were In The Region of Twenty Throughout The Country.

However Sadly In 1939 Anti-Black Segregationists In Congress Decided To Cut Funding Because They Did Not Approve of The Racial Intergration That It Enjoyed. So They Denounced & Demonised The Project As Communist.

In May 1938 The Dies Committee (Named After Texas Democrat Martin Dies Junior) Had Been Set Up To Investigate Disloyal And Subversive Activity Harmful To Americans And Concluded “Racial Equality Forms A Vital Part The Communist Dictatorship And Practices”. [The Role of Blacks In The Federal Theatre 1935-39. The Journey of Negro History. Ross, Ronald (January 1074)]. One Congressman Reportedly Said At The Time “Culture? Hell Let Them Have A Shovel & A Pick”. The Project Was Taken Right Back To Square One As 8000 Jobs Were Lost As A Result of The Funding Cuts.

Cue William Edward Burghardt Du Bois, Known As W.B. Du Bois. He Was A Founding Father of The NAACP (National Association For The Advancement of Coloured People) Set Up In Response To A Rise In Violent Attacks Against Black People In 1909. This Stemmed From The Atlanta Georgia Riots of 1906 After Local Newspapers Published Unsubstantiated Stories of Black Men Attacking White Women. And The Brownsville Army Dismissals Where A Segregated Unit of 167 Soldiers Was Discharged From The Army (Losing Their Pensions And RightTo Work For The Government Ever Again) After They Were Falsey Accussed of The Fatal Shooting of A Bartender And The Wounding of A Police Officer.

The Accussers Were White Residents of A Town Called Brownsville, Texas. The Unit Was The 25th Infantry Regiment of So Called Buffalo Soliders, A Name Given To Segregated Black Soliders (Reportedly By Native Indian Americans) Because They Had Curly And So Called Kinky Hair Which Reminded Them The of Bison On The Land Planes of America. The First 25th Infantry Regiment Was Reportedly Estalished As Early As In 1812. And Were Instrumental In The American Civil War Too. Army Segregation Ended In 1948 After A Black Solider, Who Had Survived World War II Was Blinded In A Shocking, Horrific, Savage Racial Attack On Amercian Homeland After He Returned Home From Fighting Abroad For His Country.

In 1940 Following The Withdrawal of Government Funds The African Negro Theatre Was Set Up By A Group of African American Creatives And Their Supporters. Playwright Abram Hill, Actor Frederick O’Neal, Musicians The McClendon Players And Pan-African Civil Rights Historian And Activist W. B. Du Bois, The First African American To Win A Doctorate From Harvard (February 23 1868 – August 27 1963).

Du Bois Stipulated Four Founding Principles Had To Be At The Heart of The ANT: Its Work Had To Be

There Was Also An Associate Dance Theatre Arm And Radio Presentation Arm. The Former Included African Artists Unsettled By Italy’s Invasion of Ethiopia. And The Latter Received Great Recognition From The ‘National Committee For Education By Radio’.

Harry Belafonte Was An Alumni of The ANT. As Was Sidney Poitier. And Many Other African American Actors Who Gone To Find Great Fame & Success In America, Including Cicely Tyson, Maya Angelou, James Earl James And Louis Gosset Junior (Who Starred In An Officer And A Gentleman). Poitier And Belafonte Were To Become Great Friends. Poitier Found Fame After Being Discovered One Night When He Stood In As Belafonte’s Understudy And An American Filmmaker Happened To Be In The Audience.

Poitier Was The First African American Man To Win An Oscar. Louis Gossett Junior Was The First African American Man To Win An Oscar For Best Supporting Actor. Belafonte Was The First African-American Male Celebrity To Be Officially Asked To Officially Endorse An American Political Party. Famous For Her Refusal To Take Part In Blaxploitatoin Movies Is Cicely Tyson Fellow Civil Rights Champion Cicely Tyson Won An Oscar For The Movie Founder In 1972. Both Lillies of The Valley And Founder Have Been Deemed Culturally, Historically, And Aesthetically Important And Entered Into The United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress

Tragically The ANT Was To Become A Victim of Its Own Success.

In A Touchin’ Tribute To His Actin’ Contempary And Friend, Harry Belfafonte Sang “Amen” To Sidney At His Special Ceremony For The American Film Institute’s Accolade of A Lifetime Achievement Award In 2012. Poitier Famously Sings The Gospel Song To A Group of Foreign Nuns He Meets And Is Teachnin’ English In His Oscar Winnin’ Movie Lillies of The Field. Poitier Was The First Black Man To Win An Oscar.

The Fact That The Prime Minister of The Bahamas & The Bahamas Ministry of Foreign Affairs Both Released Statements Upon The Passin’ of Sidney Poitier Tells Its Own Tale About How Highly Esteemed Their Native Son Was To Them, And Indeed Others Around The World. Followin’ His Phenomenal Foray Into The World of Theatre, Film, And Television News of His Passin’ At 7pm On January 6th 2022 Saw Tributes Pour In From Presidents Obama, Biden, And Clinton, As Well As Fellow Oscar Winners Denzel Washington, Halle Berry, Mark Ruffalo, And Lupita Nyong’o To Name But A Few.

Lupita And Poitier Partied Together At The 2014 Oscars After Party. She Posted That He Was Her Hero.

Immediately Dispelling The Perverted, Obscene, And Misinformed Notion Of White Supremacy In Every Beautifully Human, Artistic And Dignified Way = Sidney Poitier.

Actor Mark Ruffalo On Sidney Poitier’s Passin’ 2022

Halle Berry Posted: “A Tiny Bit Of Myself Is Lost When My Friends Are Gone,” Sidney Poitier Wrote In His Book LIFE BEYOND MEASURE. My Dear Sidney, An Enormous Part Of My Soul Weeps At Your Passing. You Were An Iconic Trailblazer. Yours Was A Life Well Lived. I Grew Up Idolizing You And Will Always Remember The Day When I First Met You. And There I Sat, With My Words Glued Together, And You Were As Gracious And Charming Then As You Would Be During Our Decades Of Friendship To Follow. Rest In Peace, Beloved Sidney. You Are And Always Will Be The True Measure Of A Man.

Sidney Poitier Began His Career In The American Negro Theatre In 1945 (ANT) And Within 20 Years Would Become The First Black Man To Win An Oscar (1964).
Civil Rights Activism Within Those Years Meant That By Then The Jim Crow Segregation Laws Were Comin’ To An End. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 (The Same Year As His Win) Followed The March On Washington, Led By Dr. Martin Luther King (MLK)). And The Followin’ Year Saw The Votin’ Rights Act 1965 Followin’ The March From Selma To Montgomery State Capital Led By MLK.

Poitier, Belafonte And Heson At The Famous MLK I Have A Dream Speech 1963. President Abraham Lincoln’s Memorial Watches Over Proceedings In The Background
President Barack Obama, The First Black President of America, Presents The Presidential Medal of Freedom
To The First Black Man To Win An Oscar. Both Men Are In The Company of The First Black First Lady, Michelle Obama

Whilst He Found Fame In America, Sir’ Sidney Poitier Was Born To Bahamian Parents Evelyn & Reginald Poitier, Who Were Farmers. He Was Born Ahead of Time, In Miami Flordia, February 20th 1927, Whilst His Parents Were On A Business Trip To America And So Was Granted Automatic American Citizen Ship. He Grew Up In The Bahamas Until Circa 16 Years of Age. He Was The Yougest of 7 Children And His Parents Sent Him off To Live With An Elder Brother In America As He Grew Older & Looked Liked He Might Be Losin’ His Way. An Earlier More Humble Fresh Prince of Bel Air Perhaps.

Indeed He Did Become Associated With Princes And Royalty In Real Life As In 1974 He Was Actually Knighted By Queen Elizabeth II . The Bahamas Was A Royal Colony Until It Sought Independence After WW II And Declared Independence In 1973. Sir Sidney Poitier Was Able To Be Knighted In 1974 As The Country Remained Part of The Commonwealth With The Monarch As Head of State. He Was Both A British Citizen And A US Resident.

Whilst Workin’ In A Restaurant (The Time Honoured Occupation of Would-be Actors) An Elderely Waiter Connected To The Actin’ World Encouraged Him To Read, Speak & Present Himself Better If He Wanted To Do Better In Life. So He Did. They Practiced Together By The Newspaper. Indeed He Did So Well At This Self-Improvement Challenge That He Became Famous For It. And Not Only As An Actor But Also As A Diplomat Even After His Actin’ Career Was Over After He Officially Resigned From Actin’ In 2000. Hence He Earnt High Praise From High Government As Well As From His Contemporaries, Fans & Fellow Creatives. Beyond His Actin’ He Became The Bahamian Ambassador To Japan From 1997 – 2007.

Poitier’s Most Poignant Pictures

What Is Fascinatin’ About Poitier’s Career Is That It Started At The Height of Civil Rights Unrest & Upheavel In America. People In The Film Industry Embraced, Encouraged & Empowered Him In Defiance of Racial Hatred. And Together He & They Made It Work!

In 1945 He Joined The American Negro Theatre (ANT) Which Was An Artistic Manifestation As A Result of The Omnipresent Racial Segregation Prevailin’ Under Jim Crow Laws At The Time. The ANT Provided A Forum For Theatrical African-Americans Who Were Not Accepted Into White Mainstream Performance Platforms & Programs. Many A Big Name Started Out There. Interstingly It Was Not Exclusively Black And A Number of White Creatives Worked & Collaborated With The AMT Too. Within Five Years of Joinin’ The Group Poitier Got His Big Break.

No Way Out – 1950 – His First Feature Film- Directed By Civil Rights Supporter Joseph L Mankiewicz Who Was Focused On Makin’ Films Featurin’ Racial Integration. Richard Widmark Played A Thug Filled With Hate Who Hounds A Black Doctor As Played By Poitier. Thirteen Years Later, In A Different Movie, Sidney Was To Win An Oscar For Best Actor And Fly High Durin’ An Outstandin’ Actin’ Careeer.

The Defiant Ones – 1958 – It Was Nominated For 9 Oscars, Includin’ One Each For Curtis And Poitier. It Won Two. Best Screen Play And Best Cinematography Notwithstandin’ The Fact It Was A Black And White Movie. It Was About Two Prisoners Chained Together And On The Run. As Well As Workin’ With Premiere Actors Poitier Also Worked With Some of The Best Directors And Was To Make A Number of Films With Social Comment Movie Maker Stanley Kramer Known For His ‘Message Movies’.

Porgy & Bess – 1959 – Samuel Goldwyn Movies Described It As A New Age In Cinema And For Poitier It Proved To Be Just That. And Then Some! Again A Stellar Cast Included Sammy Davis Jnr. Dorothy Dandrige. And Peter Brocks (Later To Star In The Phenomenal To Kill A Mockingbird With Gregory Peck). A Man Falls For A Girl ‘With A Past’. The Question Is Will Their Love Last Despite Much Interference.

Paris Blues 1961: “All These White Girls Look The Same”
Paris Blues 1961: A 1960s Cinematic Power Couple. Sidney Poitier & Diahann Caroll

A Raision In The Sun – 1961 – Written As A Play By Lorraine Hansberry In 1959 It Was Adapted To A Movie And Released By Columbia Pictures In 1961. It Has Become A Cultural Classic Played By Numerous Different Casts. Louis Gossett Jnr. (Later of An Officer And Gentleman Fame) Stars With Poitier In This One. And Passionately Tells The Story of A Poor Black Family Seekin’ A Better Life.

Paris Blues – 1961 – In A Great Forward Thinkin’, Stylish And Mesmerising Movie About Race Relations In 1960s Paris Poitier Teams Up With Diahann Carroll To Provide Stunnin’ Vintage Black Glamour Alongside The Famously Hot & Handsome Paul Newman And Joanne Woodward (Married In Real Life). They Played Two Ex-Pat American Musicians Livin In France And Two American Girlfriends On Holiday In Paris. The Film Contrasts Racial Prejudice In America And A More Relaxed Music Scene In France. It’s A Beautiful, Powerful, Smooth Film And Deserves More Much Recognition And Acclaim Than It Has Had Thus Far.

Lillies of The Field – 1963 – Oscar For Best Actor. The First Black Man To Win An Oscar

“God Is Good. He Sent Me A Big Strong Man.”

“He Never Said Anything To Me About Sendin’ Me No Place. I’m Just Passin’ Through.”

So Begins A Fascinatin’ Relationship Between 5 Catholic Nuns From Germany, Austria And Hungary AndA Black Baptist In Post World War II At The Height of The Civil Rights Movement. These Were Two of The Most Racially Disharmonious, Destructive Yet Impactful Times In World History. And Set Amongst This Background This Movie Won His First Ever Oscar For Sidney.

The Pervasive Theme Throughout The Movie Is The Language Difference Between The Two Parties & The Nun’s Willingness To Learn & The Pastor’s Willingness To Teach. Notably There Is A Lesson Within A Lesson Wherein We Learn “Swarz” (As In “Swarzeneggar”) Means Black).

It’s A Beautiful Thing When Juan The Restaurant Owner Meets Homer The Hungary Helper Who Is Feed Like A King. It’s Like A Precursor To Fine Dinin’ For All Who Can Afford It.

This Is Big Bold Stuff. And Poitier Wins A Big Bold Oscar For Best Actor. Big Moment!

(Sadly A Much Less Hospitable Scene Played Out In Response To A Black Man Sittin’ At A Cafe Counter In The 1989 Film Mississippi Burnin’. It Is Heartbreakingly Based On A True Story About A 1960s Triple Murder Investigation Led By The FBI. Poitier Was Not In It But The Two Scenes Are Worth Comparison In Terms of The History of Hollywood).

In 1966 He Starred With James Garner In The Black & White Cowboys And Indians Western Dual At Diablo From Whence Came The Iconic Image of Him Wearing A Grand Looking Cowboy Hat (See Above). But Yet Three Major Greater Iconic Roles Were To Hit The Movies Screens The Following Year.

1967 Was A Big Year For Poitier Three Iconic Movies Starrin’ Him Bein’ Released.

In The Heat of The Night – 1967 – This Film Sees Poitier Deliver One of Hollywoods Most Famous Lines, “They Call Me Mr Tibbs.” He Plays Opposite Rod Steiger With Both Men Playin’ Police Officers. Detective And Sheriff. It Also Featured The Iconic Moment A Black Man Slapped A White Man Back In The Deep South of America.

The Moment Was So Powerful It Inspired Nelson Mandela Durin’ His Incarceration In South Africa As A Political Prisioner. As He Had Heard About It And Was Desparate To See It. Seein’ It (After It Was Snuck In For Him) Let Him Know Positive Change Was Happenin’ In The World And It Inspired Him Even Further To Stay Strong And Stand Firm In His Believes. It Worked Because He Was Eventually Released (Havin’ Miraculously Endured 27 Years As A Political Prisoner) And Went On To Become South Africa’s First Black President. The Country Was Previously Globally Notorious For It’s Inhumane, Brutal Legal, Cultural And Social System Based On White Supremacy & Racial Apartheid.

Reportedly Durin’ Filmin In The American South Poitier Escapted A Near Death Experience With The KKK And So Slept With A Gun To Protect Himself. That’s Dedication To The Cause And One’s Craft Above And Beyond The Call of Duty.

The Legendary Mandela Story And Oscar Winnin’ Movie Highlight The Power of The Arts To Inspire People, Impact Society, And Change Lives.

To Sir With Love – 1967 – An Iconic Movie That Reflected His Insistence On Actin’ In Movies of Cultural Substance. For This Was The Cinematic Autobiographical Novel of E.R. Braithwaite, The Guyanese Writer, Teacher & Diplomat. Braithwaite’s Story Is An Amazin’ One And Is Worth One’s Own Little Adventure In Research And Investigation Beyond The Film, Just For Personal Fullfillment And Fun, As He Really Is An Inspiration. (The Film Also Starred British Pop Star & Actress Lulu.)

Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner 1967 Again This Was Brave Movie Makin’ About Issues That Were Contemporary And Relevant. It Starred Some of Hollywoods Most Famous Actors Too, Sidney Was Cast Alongside Legendary Actors Katherine Hepburn And James Cagney. They Play The Boyfriend, Mother And Father of A White Middle Class Girl Respectively. The Youngsters Announcement That They Plan To Marry Sends Shock Ways Throughout The Family, When Guess Who Comes To Dinner. It’s A Classic.

It Was Nominated For Ten Oscars. Ultimately It Won Tw0. Best Actress For Hepburn. And Best Screenplay For William Rose.

Aston Kuther And Zoe Saldana Made A Reverse Role Comedy Remake In 2003 Starrin’ The Great Bernie Mac In The Father Role.

Stir Crazy – 1980 – Poitier Also Directed Comedies Himself Too, Includin’ The Comedy Classic Stir Crazy Starrin’ Richard Pryor And Gene Wilder In 1980.

American-Bahamian Sidney Poiter Was An Oscar Winnin’Actor, Director, Activist, Ambassador And Diplomat. February 20 1927 – January 6 2022. In 2002 He Was Awarded An Honourary Oscar By The Film Academy In Recognition of His Achievements Within The Film Industry. In 2009 He Was Awarded The Presidential Medal of Freedom By President Barack Obama (Pictured At Top Above). In 2012 The American Film Institute Paid Tribute To Him With A Lifetime Achievement Award. And In 2016 He Was Awarded The BAFTA Fellowship.