When Harry Belafonte speaks, we all should listen.
The famed activist and humanitarian gave a particularly poignant and emotional speech Saturday night at the Governor Awards in California. Belafonte received the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award and urged Hollywood to confront its racial past and strive to “change the game” moving forward.
The 87-year-old Belafonte discussed the racial and social progress he’d like to see in Hollywood.
One of four individuals receiving honorary Oscars, Belefonte said:
I really wish I could be around for the rest of the century to see what Hollywood does with the rest of the century. Maybe, just maybe, it could be civilization’s game changer.
The speech received a standing ovation from the collection of stars on hand at the event.
He mentioned groundbreaking films such as Brokeback Mountain and 12 Years a Slave as helping to push discussions about injustice and inequality forward. Belafonte also pointed out how far the industry had come from films like Tarzan, in which “Hollywood brought abundant opportunity for black children in their Harlem theaters to cheer Tarzan and boo Africans.”
During the 12-minute speech, Belafonte called fellow actor Sidney Poitier up, so that the 87-year-old could also be honored. Other individuals receiving honorary Oscars were Maureen O’Hara, Hayao Miyazaki and Jean-Claude Carriere.