News One Now host Roland Martin was fortunate to have legendary singer and actor, Harry Belafonte on his show recently. It is always an opportune time to talk politics and social issues with Belafonte, who has transcended the entertainment industry to be regarded as one of the nation's foremost civil rights leaders. Among the topics discussed with his 89-year-old esteemed guest was Colin Kaepernick's protest of the National Anthem, which officially occupied the NFL regular season this week.
"I think that it's a noble thing that he's done," Belafonte said, after posting an analogy which compared the reaction of those who are angered by Kaepernick's position to that of a slave owner seeking to silence a slave. "I think that speaking out and making people aware of the fact that you are paying homage to an anthem, that also has a constituency that by the millions suffer, is a righteous thing to do."
Belafonte is no stranger to activism. The calypso star - turned Hollywood leading man was a contemporary of Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, during a time when entertainers were blacklisted for raising their voices on injustice. Till this day he attends and contributes to the organizing of rallies, fundraisers, and forums on social justice issues. Because of his history, Belafonte suggests that he identifies with what Kaepernick is going through under the scope of ridicule, and relates it to his own experience, saying, "The machinery of oppression was always at work trying to discredit me; make me a communist, make me unpatriotic, etc., etc., etc. It takes a lot of courage to stand up in the face of that onslaught, that reactive moment, and not bend to the wind."
In spite of the kind of backlash one chances to receive when challenging the status quo, Belafonte said he is surprised there haven't been more acts of civil disobedience over the years, considering the magnitude of Black celebrities, athletes, and established entrepreneurs there are today, who have the power to respond to such tragedies as the killing of Trayvon Martin and other innocent Black people by law enforcement. "We have so many where Black celebrity is displayed, that could make a difference," he said. "And yet never has there been such an absence of Black celebrity voice in relationship to the problems that Black people face today, in a severe way."