Tag: Harry Belafonte

Meet Dawn Porter, Filmmaker Behind Netflix Documentary Series “Bobby Kennedy For President”

<p>Dawn Porter</p>
Filmmaker Dawn Porter (Chance Yeh/Getty Images)

On April 4, 1968, Democratic presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy took to the stage in Indianapolis, Indiana to tell the mostly Black crowd that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. had been assassinated.

“What we need in the United States is not division; what we need in the United States is not hatred; what we need in the United States is not violence or lawlessness; but love and wisdom, and compassion toward one another, and a feeling of justice toward those who still suffer within our country,” Kennedy said that evening. “Let us dedicate ourselves to what the Greeks wrote so many years ago: to tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of this world.”

Two months later, Kennedy was killed — shot to death in Los Angeles, moments after winning California’s Democratic presidential primary.

While Kennedy has been lionized as the rare politician who could bring together working-class whites, African-Americans, and Latinx voters, his transformation from being openly suspicious of those in the civil rights movements to being one of its biggest supporters is one of the most interesting components of filmmaker Dawn Porter’s last project, Bobby Kennedy For President. 

In the four-part Netflix documentary series, Porter uses archival footage and interviews with people like Harry Belafonte, activist Dolores Huerta, and Congressman John Lewis to chronicle Kennedy’s rise through the ranks to become one of the most beloved figures in American history, particularly for scores of Black people.

“He’s a really fascinating historical figure,” Porter tells ESSENCE. “I’ve always been interested in politics. Career-wise, a lot of my films deal with social justice, and I felt like this one dealt with social justice from a different perspective.”

According to Porter — who has covered topics like abortion, the criminal justice system, and fatherhood in her work — Kennedy’s influence on many prominent African-Americans, like former Attorney General Eric Holder, prompted her to delve deeper into his life.

“In our initial research into the story, when I saw what a difference civil rights leaders made in his life, it meant that made a difference in all of our lives and I wanted to add in their voices to this history,” she says. “He’s a very compelling figure and it was just a rich opportunity to dig into the archives as a filmmaker, but to also tell the story through a different lens.”

While many look to Kennedy’s life and ability to bring people together as an example of the type of coalition they’d like to build in the future, Porter says his life can teach us a valuable lesson right now about extending people grace and room to grow.

“We’re awfully quick these days to label people and keep them in a box and I think that that doesn’t serve any of us well,” Porter explains. “All of us are complicated, but if we’re smart and mature we all evolve. I think what you see with Bobby Kennedy is his evolution, but you have to understand the beginning to deeply appreciate the end.”

Under his leadership at the Justice Department, Kennedy authorized the surveillance of African-American leaders like Dr. King, who was considered a threat to the nation. However, as he forged relationships with people in the movement like Belafonte, Huerta, and writer James Baldwin, his perspectives began to shift. Soon, Kennedy would send federal marshals to Mississippi to protect the Freedom Riders, and later, would commit himself to healing America’s racial divisions. Kennedy’s shift in his commitment to racial justice made Porter even more enthralled by his life.

“I appreciated the end so much when I understood that history,” she says. “The fact that the man who authorized the wiretap of Martin Luther King, Jr. would then break Cesar Chavez‘s fast, would march with Dolores Huerta during the grape strikes and would announce Martin Luther King’s death to a largely Black audience in Indianapolis. Those are seminal moments in our history, but I think they’re made even richer and deeper and more meaningful because that’s not where he began.”

Many wonder what America would have looked like had Kennedy survived and gone on to the White House. “Had Kennedy lived we wouldn’t have had Nixon, Watergate, Bush, or Trump,” Huerta said in a recent interview. “Kennedy was a different kind of individual. He believed in bringing people together. He was not divisive, he was a uniter.”

For Porter, the nation’s current political climate makes it the perfect time to reflect on Kennedy’s life. “Bobby Kennedy, John F. Kennedy Jr. were always really, really important in marginalized communities, in the African-American community,” she told PBS. “And I thought what a great time to explore that legacy, at a time when politics feels so dark and when so many people… are so impacted by the political discourse of today.”

Now that Porter has tackled Kennedy’s complex life in Bobby Kennedy For President, she’s hoping to reclaim a little of her time and work on a project about yet another impactful politician, California Congresswoman Maxine Waters. As she explores her next potential subject, Porter says she just appreciates the opportunity to make films that matter, and support other Black folks in the business, too.

“I’m just grateful the offers are coming and the projects are coming and I’m also interested in sharing that love,” she tells ESSENCE. “As Ava DuVernay always says, ‘It’s no fun being the only.”’ It’s important that there are many of us with many visions because there’s not one way to be Black.”

Source: https://www.essence.com/entertainment/dawn-porter-black-woman-netflix-bobby-kennedy-president

New “Mr. Soul!” Documentary Explores How Ellis Haizlip’s PBS Show “Soul!” Brought Black Culture to Talk Show TV

by Sameer Rao via colorlines.com

Ellis Haizlip (photo via colorlines.com)

Ellis Haizlip broke the talk show and public television color barrier when he introduced SOUL!,” the weekly program he hosted during the late ’60s and early ’70s, to PBS. Now, a half decade after the show debuted, his niece Melissa Haizlip (“Crossing Jordan”) revisits his legacy with the documentary “Mr. SOUL!Deadline anticipated the world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival by unveiling the trailer (above) on April 4.

“There exists, as far as I know, no TV program that deals with my culture so completely, so freely, so beautifully,” the senior Haizlip remarked in archival footage from the trailer. To drive that point home, the trailer incorporates clips of performances from now-renowned Black artists as varied as Maya Angelou, Donny Hathaway and Alvin Ailey. Haizlip also conducted interviews on the show with Stokely Carmichael, James Baldwin and other activists and thought leaders.

Interviewees like Kathleen Cleaver, Sonia Sanchez and Harry Belafonte spoke to the importance of this show, which centered Black culture at a time when the U.S. was waging full-scale war on Black activism. “This is serious business, our lives were at stake!” Cleaver emphasized in the trailer.

PBS/Thirteen noted that Ellis Haizlip fought both on and off camera. He intentionally staffed his production team with Black crew members and publicly criticized the government-created Corporation for Public Broadcasting for pulling funding. “Worse than racism, I see this as the beginning of a systematic plan to remove Black programs from public television,” he told Jet magazine after the show’s cancellation in 1973.

“Mr. SOUL!” debuts at the Tribeca Film Festival on April 22.

Source: https://www.colorlines.com/articles/new-doc-explores-how-mr-soul-brought-black-culture-talk-show-tv

Jesse Williams to Produce, Star in Upcoming Harry Belafonte Biopic

Harry Belafonte (l) and Jesse Williams (r) [photo via theroot.com]
Harry Belafonte (l) and Jesse Williams (r) [photo via theroot.com]
article via thegrio.com

“Grey’s Anatomy” star and actvist Jesse Williams has plans to produce and star in a biopic about his fellow civil rights icon and entertainer Harry Belafonte. Williams announced the project during an appearance on Denzealots, a podcast by comedians W. Kamau Bell and Kevin Avery.

During the episode, Williams admitted that he cared more about activism than acting.  “I have an awesome job that I love,” he said, “but there’s this magnetic force that is constantly pulling me toward activism. I just have to do it.”

If you’re into social media, you probably already knew that. Williams is highly influential on Twitter, boasting more than one million followers. The young actor’s gained his influence, not with selfies, but with insightful tweets and short commentaries on issues impacting people of color.  He was heavily involved in the Justice for Flint concert which brought together residents, celebrities and performers to raise awareness on the water crisis.

Source: Jesse Williams to produce, star in upcoming Harry Belafonte biopioc | theGrio

Chris Rock Recites James Baldwin During Powerful MLK Day Event In Harlem

Chris Rock speaks at #MLKNow event (photo via lifestream.com)
Chris Rock speaks at #MLKNow event (photo via lifestream.com)

Chris Rock brought the powerful words of James Baldwin to life Monday during a tribute at the “MLK Now” event in Harlem honoring the late Martin Luther King, Jr.

The program, put together by the Campaign For Black Achievement and Blackout for Human Rights — organizations committed to social justice — took place at Harlem’s Riverside Church, where King delivered his riveting 1967 speech, “Beyond Vietnam: A Time To Break Silence.”

The event attracted a bevy of black Hollywood stars, who celebrated the legacy of King and other black historical icons. Some stars paid tribute through musical performances, like India.Arie, who praised Shirley Chisholm. Others, including Rock, gave powerful recitals.

Rock, who will host the Oscars next month, read the words to Baldwin’s widely praised 1963 letter, “My Dungeon Shook.” Watch Rock’s full performance (he takes the stage around the 1:44 mark) by clicking here.

“Creed” director Ryan Coogler, also the director and a founding member of Blackout for Human Rights, served as moderator for the event and introduced stars on the stage, including Harry Belafonte, Octavia Spencer, Jussie Smollett, Michael B. Jordan and India.Arie.

article by Lilly Workneh via huffingtonpost.com

EBONY Unveils Powerful December Cover With Harry Belafonte, Jesse Williams, and Zendaya

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Fresh off its provocative, internet breaking Cosby Show cover, the folks over at EBONY are at it again.

Celebrating the magazine’s 70th anniversary, editor-in-chief Kierna Mayo and company just unveiled the cover for the December issue, which asks readers to #StandForSomething.

The image features actor and civil rights legend Harry Belafonte flanked by the next generation of socially conscious celebs, Grey’s Anatomy’s Jesse Williams and Disney’s Zendaya Coleman.

So far, people are loving the look of latest issue. Ava DuVernay called it “epic” and Michaela Angela David said it helps understand the heritage of the social justice movement.

article via clutchmagonline.com

Oprah Winfrey’s OWN Announces a Month-Long Celebration Honoring Civil Rights Legends

Oprah Winfrey and

OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network recently announced a month-long celebration in January honoring civil rights legends who paved the way as we approach the 50th anniversary of the historic Selma to Montgomery marches led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

The network will air the star-studded television event Oprah Winfrey Presents: Legends Who Paved The Way (Sunday, January 18 at 9 p.m. ET/PT) where Oprah Winfrey hosts a gala of events honoring some of the legendary men and extraordinary women of the civil rights movement, the arts and entertainment who made history and redefined what was possible for us all. Honorees include Ambassador Andrew Young, Berry Gordy, Rev. C.T. Vivian, Diane Nash, Dick Gregory, Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr., Congressman John Lewis, Rev. Joseph Lowery, Juanita Jones Abernathy, Julian Bond, Marian Wright Edelman, Myrlie Evers-Williams, Quincy Jones, Sidney Poitier and Harry Belafonte.

On January 4 at 9 p.m. ET/PT, Oprah sits down for a special episode of her popular series Oprah Prime celebrating the life of Dr. King and the Selma marches 50 years later. The episode features an in-depth conversation with the star of the upcoming film Selma, acclaimed actor David Oyelowo who portrays Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., along with the film’s award-winning director Ava DuVernay. The episode will also feature stories of those who were impacted by the march and their reflections today on that time in American history.

The month of special programming begins on New Year’s Day as NBC News correspondent Tamron Hall hosts Race on The Oprah Winfrey Show with Tamron Hall (Thursday, January 1 at 10 p.m. ET/PT) which highlights those trailblazing Oprah show episodes that elicited shocking audience responses and sparked opportunities for growth towards greater connection, empathy and healing.

Other special programming airing throughout the month include special episodes of Oprah: Where Are They Now? (Thursday, January 1 at 9 p.m. ET/PT) which spotlights memorable civil rights newsmakers and Oprah’s Master Class (Sunday, January 4 at 10 p.m. ET/PT) featuring powerful firsthand accounts from iconic “masters” such as Berry Gordy, Cicely Tyson, Dr. Maya Angelou, Diahann Carroll and many more.

In addition, the world television premiere of the OWN original documentary Light Girls will air on Monday, January 19 at 9 p.m. ET/PT featuring an in-depth look into colorism and the untold stories of lighter-skinned women around the globe. The documentary features interviews with notable celebrities including Russell Simmons, Soledad O’Brien, Diahann Carroll, india.arie, Iyanla Vanzant, Michaela Angela Davis, Kym Whitley, Salli Richardson-Whitfield and more.

Continue reading “Oprah Winfrey’s OWN Announces a Month-Long Celebration Honoring Civil Rights Legends”

Director Steve McQueen and Harry Belafonte Join Forces for Paul Robeson Film

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Director Steve McQueen backstage at the Tracy Reese fashion show during the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Spring 2015 at Art Beam on Sept. 7, 2014, in New York City. (VIVIEN KILLILEA/GETTY IMAGES)

Earlier this year, Steve McQueen earned three Oscars for his film 12 Years a Slave, which told the story of Solomon Northup and his fight for freedom after being captured and forced into slavery. McQueen’s telling of Northup’s story not only opened up a bit of history many people never knew about but also gave insight into what McQueen’s thought process is when it comes to making a film. And his next film isn’t any different.

Speaking at the Hidden Heroes Awards in New York City on Monday, McQueen revealed to the attendees that his next movie will be about Paul Robeson. Robeson was the quintessential Renaissance man, from his early start as a scholar and athlete at Rutgers University to singing his well-known song “Ol’ Man River.” Outside of the arts, Robeson was also a powerful voice during the civil rights movement. But some of his political views weren’t always welcome. During the McCarthy era, Robeson was labeled a communist and blacklisted, but that didn’t stop him from expressing his opinion.

“His life and legacy was the film I wanted to make the second after Hunger. But I didn’t have the power, I didn’t have the juice,” McQueen said, according to The Guardian. McQueen also credits a neighbor for piquing his interest about Robeson when he passed an article to him.

“It was about this black guy who was in Wales and was singing with these miners,” McQueen recalled. “I was about 14 years old, and not knowing who Paul Robeson was, this black American in Wales, it seemed strange. So then, of course, I just found out that this man was an incredible human being.”

Not only will McQueen’s movie look into various aspects of Robeson’s life, but he’ll also have the help of Robeson’s friend, the iconic Harry Belafonte. Although Belafonte’s role in the film has yet to be discussed, the award-winning actor said only good things about McQueen.

“We get on like a house on fire,” McQueen told The Guardian. “I never thought I’d make a new friend, and a man who is 87 years old, but I’m very happy. He’s a beautiful man.”

McQueen hasn’t revealed who he has in mind to play Robeson, but he’s definitely eager to start working with Belafonte. “Miracles do happen. With Paul Robeson and Harry Belafonte, things have come full circle, “McQueen stated.

article by Yesha Callahan via theroot.com

Harry Belafonte Receives Academy’s Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award

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According to Deadline.com, Harry Belafonte was honored last night at the Sixth Annual Governors Awards of the Academy Of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences.  Belafonte received the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award and during his speech, galvanized the industry crowd by asking them to aim higher.

Belafonte gave one of the all-time great acceptance speeches at the Governors Awards, citing Hollywood’s often-shameful power to influence attitudes, and challenging the heavy-hitters in the room to instead create works that allow global audiences “to see the better side of who we are as a species.”

He reminded the crowd about “Birth of a Nation,” the early “Tarzan” films (depicting “inept, ignorant Africans”) and “Song of the South,” as well as the industry’s cowardice during the McCarthy hearings. He also referred to the industry’s decades-long treatment of Native Americans in films, “and at the moment, Arabs aren’t looking so good.” The industry doesn’t like trouble-makers and “on occasion, I have been one of its targets.”

But he said that “today’s harvest of films yields sweeter fruit,” citing “Schindler’s List,” “Brokeback Mountain” and “12 Years a Slave” as examples. He also thanked such inspirations as Langston HughesJames BaldwinEleanor Roosevelt and Paul Robeson, quoting the latter’s statement that “Artists are the gatekeepers of truth” as well as the radical voice of civilization.

He then called Sidney Poitier to the stage, recognizing the actor’s role in changing public attitudes toward blacks. And he added that he hopes things will improve this century: “Maybe it could be a civilization game-changer.”

Other Governors Awards winners were 94 year-old actress Maureen O’Hara, legendary Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki, and masterful screenwriter Jean-Claude Carriere gave a moving tribute to Hollywood’s “forgotten” writers.

article by Lori Lakin Hutcherson (follow @lakinhutcherson)

Jamie Foxx Throws a Celebrity Fundraiser in Honor of Trayvon Martin

Trayvon Martin's parents Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin stand alongside actor Jamie Foxx and a slew of other celebrities at the actor's fundraising event he held this past weekend. (Photo courtesy of Instagram)
Trayvon Martin’s parents Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin stand alongside actor Jamie Foxx and a slew of other celebrities at the actor’s fundraising event he held this past weekend. (Photo courtesy of Instagram)

Jamie Foxx opened up his home last weekend and held a special fundraising event in honor of Trayvon Martin. Martin’s parents, Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin, were in attendance and they were joined by several celebrity guests including Harry Belafonte, Russell Simmons and Tyrese, among others.  According to Extra, Belafonte delivered a speech at the event and Simmons presented Martin’s parents with a six-figure check addressed to the Trayvon Martin Foundation.

The foundation was launched in honor of the late teen, who was shot to death by volunteer neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman in February 2012. The event later led to a racially-charged case in which Zimmerman was ultimately acquitted of all charges in the death of 17-year-old Martin.  According to the foundation’s website, the purpose of the non-profit organization is to create awareness of how violent crime impacts the families of the victims and to provide support and advocacy for those families in response to the murder of Trayvon Martin.

Foxx, who has an 18-year-old daughter, has been vocal in expressing his support for Martin’s family in the past and has vowed to keep Martin’s memory alive.  “When I first saw this story, I couldn’t get over it,” Foxx said at a community event earlier this year.  “I’m absolutely committed to all you out there who have young kids. I hope you never have to go through anything like this.”

article by Lilly Workneh via thegrio.com

Youth-Led Campaigns Continue to Seek Justice for Trayvon Martin, Refute CNN’s Don Lemon

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At left, American singer, songwriter, actor and social activist Harry Belafonte, Jr. listens as Dream Defenders Executive Director Phillip Agnew, right, raises his fist as he leads a chant calling for a special session Friday, July 26, 2013 in the Capitol in Tallahassee, Fla. (AP Photo/Phil Sears)

In wake of the Trayvon Martin murder trial, movements led by young people who embrace hoodies, tattoos, hip-hop culture and rebellion are proving that a powerful voice in this nation can defy stereotypes or expectations.  While media pundits and lawmakers continue to bicker over the destructive ethos of American society, organizations like the Dream Defenders, the Million Hoodies Movement for Justice and the Trayvon Martin Foundation have taken their concerns to the streets.  They’re camped out. They’re marching Washington. They’re demanding that laws be changed and they’re forcing the government to listen.

An uprising not unlike civil rights movements of the past, these youth activists have utilized social media, new technology and the provocative antics of hip-hop to make a difference, and they don’t intend to stop.

#Ever.

“We are powerful because we are a product of our generation,” Ciara Taylor, political director for the Dream Defenders, tells theGrio. “We show the world that yes, you can listen to rap music, and yes, you can sag your pants, yes, you can have tattoos and wear snapbacks, but you can also stand up for yourself and your community.”

The Dream Defenders: #TAKEOVERFL

After occupying the Florida State House for three weeks to demand repeal of the state’s “Stand Your Ground” law, Taylor’s team demonstrated their influence this weekend when Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford announced he would hold hearings on the subject this fall.  The victory arrives after the organization, primarily made of twenty-somethings and college students, rallied legislators, drafted letters and sought approval from the Secretary of State to bring the matter to its feet.  According to Tallahassee.com, the protest has cost the government $182,362, including $68,777 in overtime for law enforcement officers.  “I’m thinking I’m going to lose my job,” says Taylor, who works part-time at the American Civil Liberties Union and has taken significant time off to lead the protest.

Continue reading “Youth-Led Campaigns Continue to Seek Justice for Trayvon Martin, Refute CNN’s Don Lemon”

The Good Things Black People Do, Give and Receive All Over The World
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