Interview with Harry Belafonte
QUESTION 10
INTERVIEWER:

OK, Jump into Malcolm, Malcolm X and the first memory.

HARRY BELAFONTE:

My very first memory of Malcolm X was, a matter of fact, ah, ah, in Harlem at a street rally that he was speaking at and, ah, I listened to him and I was instantly aware of the fact that, ah, this was no ordinary human being. This was not a street side polemic, somebody just looking for recognition and had a scam he was running. This was for real. And, ah, ah, I knew very little about the Black Muslim movement. Ah, I was aware of its existence but it didn't texturally do much--I was too distracted and too preoccupied and I never really saw in it the significance that had emerged. Ah, I knew about, ah, Elijah Muhammad. I knew about all of that out of Chicago and, and and, but it was something that was quite confined. It wasn't until Malcolm X that it began to have national and international ramifications. And the more I listened to him the more I found myself in conflict. Because I had seen in his utterances, not so much pride of manhood, quote, unquote, pride of race, I saw in it, something that tactically disturbed me as it did others and that was--if, if you beat the drums of war loudly enough and you make all of the members of the tribe war ready, they begin to trust that sound. What happens when the moment comes to apply it and you discover that you are incapable of effectively making the difference you thought you could make because violence and the design of violence would be quickly snuffed out. It was, it was very troublesome. And it wasn't until extensive conversations with Dr. King that, ah, I not only felt somewhat supported in my query but was also supported in the fact that Malcolm was deeply, deeply significant. And, that, ah, he was also doing something else that the other aspects of the movement was not doing and did not do until Black Power came along.




HARRY BELAFONTE:

Malcolm brought an instant sense of being potent. Ah, he put impotency aside for a lot of us, ah, ah, and that made people very heady. It really did. Ah, it was a wonderful euphoric feeling, to all of a sudden get up one day and say, Yeah, I'm really tough. I'm resilient. I'm bad. Ah, ah, he articulated so much that was pent up in, in, in millions of Black voices and, ah, for a long time his greatest satisfaction, tactically correct or not, it was the fact that he was a great tonic for what people needed to hear and have some relief from. Certainly for me, the greatest couplet, the greatest thing that could possibly have been brokered at that time would have been a holy alliance between Dr. King and Malcolm. Many of us worked for that tenaciously. It would certainly have meant that both forces would have had to have done a great deal of examination about their position to find a basis on which to be able to come together that would not make them have to retreat from, from, from, from a role that they had cast for themselves. Because in retreat one would have, it suggests defeat, it suggests one surrenders something. I had hoped that such a brokering would come about where, where it was not a surrendering of anything but an amalgamation of something that yielded something terribly new and, and, and beautiful. And I think that was a hope that many of us had. And, in fact, ah, had felt that Malcolm's trip to Africa and then ultimately his trip to Mecca, when he came back and said, which I thought was very key and very fundamental, when he said, "I have been to Mecca and there is no race." Ah, he, he used his trip to Mecca to point out that he had seen all of Allah's children and they were blue eyed and White skinned and Black and brown skin and they came in, in, in all colorations. And that he was beginning to view the future in a, in a, in another dimension, was for us, I think, a moment of incredible joy. Because it meant that he saw himself in universal terms. He saw himself in all people terms and that, that was the first basis, excuse me, that that was the first basis for Dr. King and he to be able to, to come together. Ah, he didn't live much longer after that.