In honor of Black History Month and his approaching 90th birthday, the legendary singer Harry Belafonte took a moment recently to reflect on his longstanding interest in fusing art and activism and ways to combat racism.
For Belafonte, singing always served to provide a platform for him to discuss issues of injustice. “[Performing] gave me a chance to say things about the world in which I lived,” he explains in a two-part video interview premiering today at Rolling Stone. “It gave me a chance to make political commentary, to make social statements, to talk about things that I found that were unpleasant – and things that I found that were inspiring.”
He remains hopeful that America can become a less racist, more equal place. “Most of the things that fuel prejudice, that fuel hate, that fuel a sense of difference that’s unacceptable, are contrived,” he declares. “If we accept the fact that much of what we do is based on what we’ve been taught to do, then I think we stand a fair chance at beating this game of perceived difference between one another. The differences that exist between us should be things that attract us to one another.”
It’s a busy month for Belafonte: Before the singer celebrates his birthday on March 1st, Legacy Recordings will release When Colors Come Together … the Legacy of Harry Belafonte, a hand-picked collection of his work containing his “biggest hits and most socially conscious performances alongside songs that are simply near and dear to his heart.” The compilation will also include a new version of his song “When Colors Come Together (Our Island in the Sun),” recorded by a children’s choir.
This decision to have kids sing the track was not an arbitrary one: “We hasten to make the case that the concept of race is not a trait with which one is born, but instead an acquired disease that festers with age,” the singer’s son David Belafonte writes in the album’s liner notes. “As such, we looked to these young children as the voice of this expression through this reimagined song, dance, and art.”
When Colors Come Together … the Legacy of Harry Belafonte is out February 24th.