Belafonte to give MLK week keynote at Pick-Staiger

Joseph Diebold, Web Editor

The King of Calypso is coming to Northwestern.

Harry Belafonte, whose singing popularized the Caribbean music style and whose social activism made him a civil rights icon, will deliver the keynote address commemorating Martin Luther King Jr. on Jan. 28 at Pick-Staiger Concert Hall, according to a University news release. Belafonte’s talk will cap NU’s two-week celebration of King’s life.

Northwestern recently made Martin Luther King Jr. Day — which will occur on Jan. 21 this year — an official holiday for all faculty, students and staff. The University will bookend the day with a “two-week celebration that includes discussions, lectures, film screenings, music, theater and service projects to inspire reflection on Dr. King’s life and legacy,” according to the release. There will be events on both the University’s Evanston and Chicago campuses, including a Jan. 26 screening of “Sing Your Song,” a documentary focusing on Belafonte’s life.

Belafonte, who grew up in Jamaica, played a key role in bringing calypso to mainstream audiences in the 1950s. His songs “Day-O (The Banana Boat Song)” and “Jamaica Farewell” both reached the top 15 on the Billboard charts and his albums “Belafonte” and “Calypso” both peaked at number one. He also helped organize the 1985 hit “We Are the World.”

Belafonte befriended King on a visit to New York during the 1950s, according to the release. His humanitarian work includes fighting against the effects of “war, drought and famine” in Africa, and he “was also prominent in the contribution to the ending of the oppressive apartheid government of South Africa and for the release of his friend, Nelson Mandela, after more than 27 years of incarceration.”

— Joseph Diebold