theGrio’s 100: Harry Belafonte, national treasure remains active in his 80s

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Who is Harry Belafonte?

There are few things Harry Belafonte has not accomplished in his 86 years he has lived. He has serenaded crowds with his soulful voice and earned accolades for his acting. But perhaps his most distinguished work extends from his role as one of the nation’s key civil rights leaders. Belafonte, who was one of Dr. Martin Luther King’s closest confidants, is recognized by millions as an influential humanitarian and a legendary activist who has helped to bring about significant social change.

Why is he on theGrio’s 100?

Belafonte was among a bevy of stars who joined Dr. King in addressing the crowd during the 1963 March on Washington – now, 51 years later, he is one of the few key dignitaries who have lived to repeat that act on the event’s half-century anniversary last August.

“Dr. King helped me grow as a person. He opened up my soul, he opened up my mind. And I found in him a place that I could honorably serve,” Belafonte recently told theGrio.

This past year alone, Belafonte was at the forefront of a number of hot-button issues but the most noteworthy of all was his activism in the aftermath of the death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. He publicly backed the Dream Defenders, a youth activist group, and even called on musicians Jay Z and Beyonce to become more socially responsible. Through it all, he never faltered in his lifelong mission to help end injustice.

What’s next for Belafonte?

As a celebrated artist who has marched with Dr. King, advised presidents and has continually fought for the equality of an entire nation of people, it is seemingly difficult to determine what there is left for Belafonte to accomplish. But considering the history he has helped shape, admirers can expect Belafonte to remain one of the nation’s most revered and respected leaders as he approaches his 90th birthday.