independent

Monday 21 April 2014

Belafonte gun debate call to blacks

Harry Belafonte wants African-American leaders participate in the debate over gun control (AP/Ronald Zak)

Veteran singer, actor and civil rights activist Harry Belafonte has urged black community leaders to get more involved in America's debate on guns.

Belafonte, 85, dubbed the King of Calypso for bringing Caribbean music to a world audience in the 1950s, said the current discussion following the Connecticut school massacre in December often ignored decades of urban gun violence.

He said it was important that African-American leaders participate in the debate over gun control.

Belafonte, a key figure in the civil rights movement, made his comments during a visit to the Rhode Island School of Design, where he delivered an address on his life as an artist and activist.

"What really concerns me is the ingredients of the discourse," Belafonte said. "The African-American community ... where is that community? Where is that voice? I think the black community, the black leadership need to stir it up."

Belafonte urged the 550-strong audience to embrace "radical thoughts" for solving poverty, inequality, violence and greed.

"What I find missing mostly in the American discourse is the rejection of radical thought," he said. "They (national leaders) speak within the same dull space they inherited from past oppressors."

In his activist days Belafonte gave financial support to Martin Luther King and funded organisations like the Student Non-Violent Co-ordinating Committee. He was also an organiser of the 1963 March on Washington.

More recently he has worked on efforts to fight poverty and Aids and was a vocal critic of George Bush.

In his address he again criticised the former president, saying he led a "regime that stole an election" and led the nation to war in Iraq without justification.

Press Association

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