Wednesday evening, my Theories of Professional Writing class (along with approximately 1,000 other people) got the opportunity to hear Mr. Harry Belafonte speak about his life and thoughts about equal rights and the current state of politics.
I know Harry Belafonte largely as a singer and an actor, and for his work on 1985’s “We Are the World,” but I must admit, I wasn’t familiar with all the humanitarian and civil rights work Belafonte has been involved with. The 90-year-old Belafonte shared anecdotes about both John F. and Bobby Kennedy, and about the first time he met Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Belafonte shared several stories about his time as an entertainer, but to keep things in perspective, he also reminded the audience that he returned home from World War II to a country where he was not allowed to vote.
In regards to President Trump, Belafonte said that while much of the country sees the proverbial glass as “half empty,” he sees the fact that many topics that were once only talked about behind closed doors are now being brought out into the open, the “half full” view. In regards to voting, Belafonte said those who don’t vote are only oppressing themselves. About education, Belafonte said “Reading is a gift. Knowledge is a defense against oppression. Make it your business to know.”
Despite the largely (I thought) positive message of Mr. Belafonte’s words, his appearance was not without controversy. The Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs referred to Mr. Belafonte as a radical leftist and released a press release protesting the event. Fortunately there were no protests at the actual event (it was cold outside).
Logistically it would be a lot simpler for me to complete my degree online, but by physically attending classes on campus opportunities such as this one occasionally present themselves. After doing more reading I can’t say I agree with everything Mr. Belafonte says and believes, but his message Wednesday night was one of education, equality and peace, three things I think the world could use more of right now.