Harry Belafonte: Dr. Martin Luther King ‘helped me grow as a person’

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At 86 years old, singer/actor Harry Belafonte’s flame is still burning bright as an activist and civil rights leader.

The Carmen Jones star recently teamed up with the Florida-based non-violent activists known as the Dream Defenders, and this week has joined America in celebrating the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.

During an interview with Chris Witherspoon, Belafonte reflected on his time serving in World War II, and weighed in on President Barack Obama’s current foreign policies.

When asked what he thought Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. would think about Obama’s friend policies, Belafonte said, “I think he would talk about President Obama and his policies in relationship to the global tendency.”

“Everywhere you go you find violence being evoked as the solution to our problem. Dr. King was adamantly opposed to that,” Belafonte said.

“When Barack Obama [became U.S. president] and said, “yes we can.” Most of us thought he was talking about yes we can end war, yes we can have peace, yes we can speak to the plight of the poor, yes we can speak to the plight of African Americans who have struggled so long. But there’s been a strange silence in those areas. Barack Obama’s articulation leaves something to be desired.”

“I admire him,” Belafonte continued. “I think he’s inherited an extremely difficult task, but let’s face it. It’s something he asked for… he fought for it.”

Belafonte, who spent more than 13 years fighting for racial equality alongside Dr. King, revealed that he initially had doubts about joining the legendary civil rights leader.

“My misgivings were that I didn’t quite understand the depth of his vision, how he really saw our future,” Belafonte said. “Here was this young man who had come to the job reluctantly. He didn’t walk into becoming the leader of a movement based upon his own inspiration. When he was first offered the task of leading the movement he was very strongly resistant to it.”

Belafonte said it was during their first meeting at Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem, that he had an epiphany and “realized he was in the presence of greatness.”

“He helped me grow as a person. He opened up my soul, he opened up my mind,” Belafonte admitted. “He told me of infinite possibilities of things that could be achieved. And I found in him a place that I could honorably serve.”

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