April 26, 2012
NEW ORLEANS - Declaring that America has lost its “moral purpose,” entertainer and civil rights pioneer, Harry Belafonte, yesterday called on the nation to embrace healing as a way to end racial strife and unify behind a movement to bring racial equity to communities.
“When I look at America Healing...it’s not just a title,” he said. “It is the crux and the heart of what this country needs, and if we can’t heal ourselves…then all else will fail.”
“We are on the threshold of imploding,” Belafonte told an audience of several hundred scholars, community leaders and social justice advocates attending the W.K. Kellogg Foundation’s 2012 America Healing grantee conference in New Orleans this week. “If we cannot bring our citizens together, if we cannot heal, if we cannot show how to be the moral compass, there will be grave consequences. “
New Orleans was chosen as the site of this second annual grantee meeting because the foundation considers New Orleans a priority place for investments and has several grantees in the city involved in the conference.
Belafonte took the stage with long-time friend, Harvard Law Professor Charles Ogletree, after the screening of Sing Your Song, an extraordinary documentary on Belafonte’s remarkable life by filmmaker Susanne Rostock. Ogletree asked Belafonte about what kept him motivated in life, the importance of paying attention to what young people are doing, the obstacles he faced as a black entertainer in a racially divided nation and his work in the civil rights movement. But much of Belafonte’s focus was on the need for healing in America.
“We have to perpetuate healing,” he said. “…real healing is more than blacks and browns coming together; there is a huge part of this equation that says white America has really got to get its act together, too.”
Belafonte also cited the Kellogg Foundation, which two years ago launched its America Healing initiative to fund organizations across the country that are engaged in healing in their communities and are addressing structural bias.
“I applaud Kellogg (Foundation)…. Let’s call upon the global resources…you are on the right track…as you heal, you find new truths, new joys, new revelations.”
Belafonte also highlighted the importance of this non-violent approach to America Healing. “And let us embrace the fact that it comes to us this way, and let’s service it and take it to a better platform, to a better moment.”
And he warned that greed and the loss of a moral platform will be detrimental to the future of our society.
Belafonte also reflected on his life from growing up poor, standing with Martin Luther King Jr., to providing resources to the Civil Rights movement with violence erupting in the South. He recalled that friends had thanked him for his sacrifices over the years so that others could have a better life. But Belafonte insisted that he viewed his work as “a gift” and was humbled to be part of the mission.
“I have been so rewarded by the journey,” he said.
For more information about America Healing, visit www.AmericaHealing.org.
W.K. Kellogg Foundation
The W.K. Kellogg Foundation (WKKF), founded in 1930 as an independent, private foundation by breakfast cereal pioneer, Will Keith Kellogg, is among the largest philanthropic foundations in the United States. Guided by the belief that all children should have an equal opportunity to thrive, WKKF works with communities to create the conditions where vulnerable children can realize their full potential in school, work and life.
The Kellogg Foundation is based in Battle Creek, Mich., and works throughout the United States and internationally, as well as with sovereign tribes. Special emphasis is paid to priority places where there are high concentrations of poverty and where children face significant barriers to success. WKKF priority places in the U.S. are in Michigan, Mississippi, New Mexico and New Orleans; and internationally, are in Mexico and Haiti.