HCA NEWS Harry Belafonte appointed HCA-Ambassador

Today, Friday 6 August at 4 pm, Danish Minister of Culture Brian Mikkelsen appointed the legendary American entertainer Harry Belafonte as Hans Christian Andersen Ambassador.

By ms - H.C. Andersen 2005 - 06 August 2004

The ceremony took place at Restaurant Grøften in Tivoli Gardens where the American entertainer and producer Harry Belafonte was the centre of attention. His 60-year career within show business has brought him world fame, yet he has shown equal commitment to issues such as human rights and social equality. In his statement, Minister of Culture Brian Mikkelsen paid tribute to Harry Belafonte:

"From time to time we get the chance to honour great people, who have done great things with their lives. You, Mr. Harry Belafonte, are indeed such a person. You have shown a tireless effort within music, movies and in the search for equality and harmony in the world. And I believe that the world is now a better place because of that. You have made it easier for people to succeed."

With him in Tivoli Gardens, Harry Belafonte had his son and Danish daughter-in-law Malena and his grandchild Sarafina. The newly appointed Andersen Ambassador showed great affection and pride in his Danish-American grandchild. Prior to the ceremony he made the following statement:

"Since the birth of Sarafina Mathiesen Belafonte, it has become critically important that I become more familiar with the Danish people, their history and their culture.  Sarafina was born into a multi-cultural family.  Her legacy embraces the continents of Africa, Europe the Americas and the Caribbean.  Her Danish roots will now be a significant part of her rich endowment of diversity.  I anticipate the moment when I will first read to her the tales of Hans Christian Andersen.  I am sure she will come to understand that her "Danishness" is as rich a part of her legacy as all else that she, by birth, is entitled to.  Hooray for Denmark that she has Sarafina. Hooray for Sarafina that will have Hans Christian Andersen as a friend forever."

With 47 national and international world names currently appointed as Andersen Ambassadors the road has been paved for an impressive celebration of the bicentenary of the birth of Hans Christian Andersen. Secretary General of the Hans Christian Andersen 2005 Foundation, Lars Seeberg, expressed his pride and satisfaction in the appointing of Harry Belafonte as Ambassador:

"Harry Belafonte masters the trying art of combining a professional career as singer, actor and producer with tireless social commitment. His extraordinary dedication to human rights issues has earned him the position as UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador. It is therefore a great honour for me to appoint such a highly esteemed person as Harry Belafonte as Hans Christian Andersen Ambassador."

Widely known
Harry Belafonte is widely known as a remarkable singer and entertainer, yet he started his artistic career as an actor. The first play he saw was at the American Negro Theatre in New York in the 1940s, and this experience encouraged the young Belafonte to become an actor. Along with other young drama talents, such as Marlon Brando, Walter Matthau and Tony Curtis, he was tutored by the legendary director Erwin Piscator.

Harry Belafonte had a couple of parts in local musical performances but soon became involved in the New York jazz scene. His silky voice promised a future as singer and he recorded his first single in 1949. He has since released more than 40 albums. In the 1950s, he spearheaded the calypso wave with major hits such as Mary's Boy Child and Banana Boat (Day-O).

Belafonte never gave up his acting career all the same. A major part in Carmen Jones from 1954 (based on Bizet's opera Carmen, with an all African-American cast) earned him recognition as an actor, and in 1957 he was awarded a Tony Award for his performance in the Broadway musical John Murray Anderson's Almanac. He has since had parts in several movies, including Island in the Sun from 1957, Odds Against Tomorrow from 1959, Buck and the Preacher from 1972, Uptown Saturday Night from 1974, and Robert Altman's Kansas City from 1996.

Belafonte started his career as a movie and TV producer at an early age and became the first African-American TV producer. The show Tonight with Harry Belafonte earned him an Emmy Award.

Deep-seated racism
Belafonte has most recently released a CD box entitled The Long Road to Freedom: An Anthology of Black Music. The box features African and American music with songs dating back to the 17th century. As the son of a Caribbean immigrant, Harry Belafonte has always been conscious of his background.

Although he has enjoyed world fame most of his life, he nevertheless fell victim to the deep-seated racism of the 1950s and 1960s. He soon became aware of the limited opportunities for African-American actors within film and theatre. Racial discrimination marked his soul, and Harry Belafonte has ever since fought tirelessly against racism and advocated equality and harmony. This commitment has brought him close to such icons of civil rights activism as Dr. Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela. 
Furthermore, Harry Belafonte has come to the aid of people across the world. In 1985, he produced and took part in the immortal pop classic We Are the World where proceeds benefited famine-stricken Ethiopia. Two years later, he became UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, and in this capacity he has initiated several influential gatherings of world leaders with the aim of improving the living conditions of children. Harry Belafonte donates 20% of his income to the Belafonte Foundation of Music and Art, which benefits young African-American seeking an artistic career.

An impressive lifelong artistic and humanitarian commitment has earned Harry Belafonte a great many honours, titles and awards. At the age of 77, he is still an active singer, actor and producer, but above all he is a committed and conscientious world citizen.