Harry Belafonte is known for many things: singing; acting on stage, screen, and television; and political activism. He became famous by bringing the folk music of the West Indies to an international audience. His roles on film are relatively few. The most famous among them include Carmen Jones, Island in the Sun, and White Man’s Burden. The first time I saw or heard Harry Belafonte was in a chance viewing of The World, the Flesh, and the Devil, which sees Belafonte survive nuclear war, only to face racial prejudice even when there are just three people left on Earth. The film’s depiction of nuclear war terrified me, even if the overall message was a little over my head at the time. I came to know music the way I imagine many people my age did: through its joyous use in the soundtrack of Beetleuice. Belafonte also appeared in Sydney Poitier’s Western Buck and the Preacher and his comedy Uptown Saturday Night.
Belafonte fought and survived prostate cancer in 1996, and spoke openly of the challenges he faced as a survivor. For more information on what Movember is and research, education, awareness, and survivorship they support, please click here.