The family of the late Emmy-award winning artist and civil rights advocate Harry Belafonte was presented with the key to the city on Sunday as part of the 49th annual Harlem Week.
Standing up a stage on West 135th Street and Frederick Douglas Boulevard, elected officials celebrated the life of Harlem native Harry Belafonte in front of an enthusiast crowd. The singer, songwriter was heralded as not only a pioneer in music but also a trailblazer in Black empowerment.
“This is a man who was the highest earning black artist of the 1950s, this is the man who in 1957 outsold Elvis Presley and Frank Sinatra,” Lieutenant Governor Antonio Delgado said. “He did all of this and decided not to go and bask in the fame and count his money. He did decide to step up and get in the ring and do the work to leverage his fame, to leverage his fortune, to leverage his voice on behalf of the people.”
With Harlem Week serving as a celebration of the historic neighborhood’s culture, Belafonte was recognized as being the embodiment of the area’s musical significance and activism. Although the “Shake, Senora” singer passed away earlier this year, his legacy will live on with the Adams administration declaring Aug. 20 as Harry Belafonte Day. A representative from the mayor’s office also stood beside the Belafonte family and presented them with the key to the city.
“Harry used his powerful voice to advocate for racial equality and advanced a variety of civic and humanitarian causes. He was a close friend of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and played an important role in the 1963 March on Washington,” Ingrid Lewis-Martin said, Chief Advisor to Mayor Adams. “His remarkable life and legacy continue to inspire all of us.”
The key was presented to Pamela Belafonte, Harry Belafonte’s widow as the culmination of Harlem Week.
Harlem Week is an annual celebration that has taken place since 1974 and honors the rich background of the historic neighborhood and it’s African American, Caribbean, Hispanic, and European roots that have cultivated the very best in arts, culture, entertainment, business, and sports. This year’s theme, “Be the Change,” focused on encouraging individuals to uplift and inspire others through positive work.
Harlem Day, which marks the final day of the week-long celebrations, consisted Sunday of a Children’s Festival, where DMC of Run DMC honored the children of Harlem with a dedication to Harry Belafonte at Howard Bennet Playground, a Harlem Health Village that promoted wellness, a Broadway information area, as well as several tributes to Hip-Hop artists and musicals.