Black greekdom is currently mourning the death of Harry Belafonte, the iconic American singer, actor, social activist, and Honorary Member of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc. who passed away Tuesday, at the age of 96. According to his publicist Ken Sunshine, his passing was due to congestive heart failure at his New York home, his wife Pamela by his side.
Belafonte, often referred to as the “King of Calypso,” was known for his smooth vocals, political activism, and contributions to the civil rights movement.
Born in Harlem in 1927, Belafonte’s career began in the 1940s as a jazz vocalist, but he found his calling in the calypso music of the Caribbean. He rose to fame in the 1950s with hits like “Day-O (The Banana Boat Song)” and “Jump in the Line,” and his music brought the sounds of the Caribbean to the American mainstream.
Belafonte was also a trailblazer in the entertainment industry, becoming one of the first African-American actors to appear on television and starring in films like “Carmen Jones” and “Island in the Sun.”
But it was his commitment to social justice that truly set Belafonte apart. He was a vocal supporter of the civil rights movement, working alongside Martin Luther King Jr. and serving as a key financial backer of the movement. He also fought against apartheid in South Africa and advocated for the rights of refugees and immigrants.
Belafonte received numerous awards and accolades throughout his life, including a Kennedy Center Honor, the National Medal of Arts, and the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
In 2014, Belofante became an honorary member of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc. Watch the video below to see his pinning ceremony speech.
Watch the speech that he gave at Phi Beta Sigma’s Centennial Gala in 2014:
Belafonte’s legacy as an artist, activist, and humanitarian will continue to inspire generations to come. He will be deeply missed by his family, friends, and fans around the world.
We ask that you keep Harry Belafonte’ family, friends, fans and fraternity brothers in your thoughts. We also ask that you leave your condolences and memories of him so that his family can see how much he meant to all of us throughout his illustrious career.