Celebrity Focus: Harry Belafonte hoping to lead a change with new festival
Sat., Aug. 27, 2016
Harry Belafonte feels America has lost its moral compass, and culture can help gain it back.
The activist and entertainer is hoping to lead a change with his “Many Rivers to Cross” festival, a racial and social justice event including performers like John Legend, Chris Rock, Common and Jesse Williams. The festival, debuting Oct. 1-2, is an extension of his social justice organization Sankofa.org, which Belafonte established in 2013.
“I’ve lived long enough to see America lose its moral compass, and that is sad commentary. … I’ve felt that culture is a way in which we can ignite a consciousness about finding our moral compass,” the 89-year-old icon said in an interview Monday at his New York City home.
“Sankofa has become an attempt at trying to institutionalize cultural consciousness; let its exclusive trajectory be telling the truth about what’s going on in our world,” he said.
His inaugural festival will be held at Chattahoochee Hills Bouckaert Farm in Fairburn, Georgia, and will promote advocacy and awareness around urgent human rights issues. The lineup includes Carlos Santana, Dave Matthews, Public Enemy, Macklemore, Danny Glover, Dr. Cornel West, T.I. and Jussie Smollett.
“They’re going to sing about Ferguson, they will sing about brutality against black women, they will sing about our homophobia, they will sing about all of it, and have an evening instead of just shaking the booty and making happy sexual noises,” he said. “You know, can we say something with some substance and have people leaving the theater feeling, ‘Wow, that’s us!’ ”
“Many Rivers to Cross” will feature multiple stages. It will include a social justice village, a home for information about current issues, voter registration and a place where people can interact with activists and social leaders.
“We’re hoping to inform and enlighten and activate our ticket-goers so that when they leave the festival they have the opportunity to engage in their community,” said Gina Belafonte, the icon’s 54-year-old daughter who is producing the festival.
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