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Harry Belafonte Mourned by Entertainment World, Biden, Obama

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Actor, singer and activist Harry Belafonte from the documentary film "Sing Your Song," poses for a portrait during the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah on Jan. 21, 2011. Belafonte died Tuesday of congestive heart failure at his New York home. He was 96. (AP Photo/Victoria Will, file)

By The Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) — Reaction poured in Tuesday from heads of state, Civil-Rights leaders and the entertainment world following the death of Harry Belafonte at age 96. As a prominent activist, charismatic singer, Hollywood leading man, Broadway star and trailblazing Black entertainer, Belafonte’s loss was felt across a wide swath of American life.

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“Jill and I are saddened by the passing of a groundbreaking American who used his talent, his fame, and his voice to help redeem the soul of our Nation. Harry Belafonte was born to Caribbean parents in Harlem, New York on March 1, 1927, when segregation was the order of American society. To our Nation’s benefit, Harry never accepted those false narratives and unjust boundaries. He dedicated his entire life to breaking barriers and bridging divides. … Harry Belafonte’s accomplishments are legendary and his legacy of outspoken advocacy, compassion, and respect for human dignity will endure. He will be remembered as a great American.” — President Joe Biden.

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“Harry Belafonte was a barrier-breaking legend who used his platform to lift others up. He lived a good life – transforming the arts while also standing up for Civil Rights. And he did it all with his signature smile and style. Michelle and I send our love to his wife, kids and fans.” — Former President Barack Obama.

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“May God Have My Dear Friend Harry Belafonte At A Peaceful Rest. We Are Losing Our Giants Left And Right. We Have To Celebrate Our Elders While They Are With Us.” — Spike Lee, who directed Belafonte’s final film, 2018′s BlacKkKlansman.”

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“Another ‘GREAT TREE’ has fallen: Harry Belafonte, a Trailblazer and Hero to us all. Thank you for your music, your artistry, your activism, your fight for Civil Rights and justice — especially risking your life back in the day to get money to the movement. Your being here on Earth has Blessed us all.” — Oprah Winfrey.

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“Harry Belafonte was one of our nation’s most powerful voices for change. … Like all true patriots, Harry Belafonte had the ability to see what could be and had the courage to work to realize that vision. He fought to help America live up to our highest ideals: dignity, equity, and justice for all. For years, it was my honor to call Harry a dear friend and rely on his wisdom and counsel. America has lost a giant.” — Vice President Kamala Harris.

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“Harry Belafonte was a true mentor and friend. I am heartbroken to hear of his death but inspired by the long, fruitful life he led. He realized his platform gave him the ability to affect change. He used it to advance the Civil Rights movement and get others in his position off the sidelines. I cherished the time he would give me and others to both guide and correct us. He was a culture-changing entertainer, a history-changing activist and an unmatchable intellectual. Rest in peace and power, Mr. B.” — The Rev. Al Sharpton.

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“When I was a child, Harry Belafonte showed up for my family in very compassionate ways. In fact, he paid for the babysitter for me and my siblings. … I won’t forget. Rest well, sir.” — Bernice A. King, daughter of The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

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“You used your profile and gifts to leave a legacy of activism, of hope, dignity … excellence. Thank you for your vision and talent. Thank you for being a beacon. You are now amongst our beautiful ancestors …. continue to guide us!” — Actor Viola Davis.

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“He represented many things to us: fun calypso music, iconic acting (I came to know him as Geechie Dan in the iconic ‘Uptown Saturday Night’ as a child) — but most importantly he taught me to think in terms of ‘WE’ not ‘I.’ That stuck with me. If there is one lesson we can learn from him it is ‘what can I do to help mankind?’ Thank You Harry Belafonte!” — Musician and filmmaker Questlove.

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“My friend, Harry Belafonte, was truly a man of cause, conviction and principle. Besides being a great entertainer, he was a major political activist during the Civil Rights Movement. I still remember the day in 1968 when Harry and I marched side by side on the Poor People’s March to Freedom. He will be missed and my sincere condolences go out to his family.” — Motown founder Berry Gordy.

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“The passing of Civil Rights icon Harry Belafonte leaves a devastating void in the racial justice community. Before his rise, no entertainer had ever used the platform and resources his fame afforded him to accomplish so much. His personal and financial support was critical to every major event of the Civil Rights Movement, from the Freedom Rides and the Birmingham Campaign to the March on Washington and the Freedom Summer of voter registration. Every American who works for racial justice takes inspiration from his unwavering commitment. — Marc H. Morial, president and chief executive of the National Urban League.

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“Harry Belafonte was a standard bearer, in the tradition of (Paul) Robeson, for generational artistry and deeply informed & committed social & political engagement. Maybe the last of a great tribe. As smart as he was knockdown handsome. He met the moment throughout his life. What a man.” — Actor Jeffrey Wright.

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“If you think about what it means to be an artist and an activist, he was literally the epitome of what that was. I don’t know people know how much he did. So gifted as an artist, as a performer, but used his platform in almost a subversive way because he would sneak messages in there — revolutionary messages — when people thought he was just singing about good times in the islands. He was always like infusing messages of protest and revolution in everything he did, and not only that, but he used his resources. He’s one of the most successful artists of his time. He used those resources to fund the Civil Rights movement.” — Musician John Legendspeaking at the Time100 summit.

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“He was more than a singer, more than an actor and more than a man.” — Rapper and actor Ice Cube.

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“Harry Belafonte didn’t just speak truth to power, he shouted it, he sang it, he made people listen to the truth. This great son of Harlem leaves behind a legacy in arts and in Civil Rights that has changed the world for the better.” — New York Mayor Eric Adams.

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“Harry Belafonte was a man of courage who risked his life and treasure to fight those willing to murder to deny Black people our freedom to exist.He gave voice to the unsung heart songs that the common man feels but never utters.He gave voice to the voiceless. He’s an ancestor now.” — Actor Wendell Pierce.

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“Thank you, Mr. B, for all of your years of mentorship, guidance, and lifetime of activism fighting for a better future for all of us.” — Former NFL star and activist Colin Kaepernick.

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“Artists uniting to use their art form to make transformational change in the world … is one of the great benefits to living a public life. Harry Belafonte exemplified this and utilized every aspect of his immeasurable talent, applying it specifically to the plight of other human beings and their Civil Rights.” — Actor Jamie Lee Curtiswho posted an image of a 1953 Ebony magazine cover featuring Belafonte and her parents, actors Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh.

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“I am deeply sad at the loss of my very dear brother, the great Harry Belafonte. His artistic genius, moral courage and loving soul shall live forever.” — Civil Rights activist and scholar Cornel West.