Interview with Harry Belafonte
QUESTION 46
INTERVIEWER:

But it was the diversity, you did very well there. In October of 87[SIC] there was a series of SCLC concerts around the country with Baez and Sammy Davis, Jr., and you in Houston, Oakland, Chicago and apparently the public response, now because of the war and the other things, wasn't what the other ones had been. Dr. King was upset about that --

HARRY BELAFONTE:

He was, ah, certainly a major force for Dr. King were celebrities, the arts and he found in us, as a community, ah, the ability to articulate and to attract people to issues that was in some ways even more powerful than the press. Ah, people revered, you know, they, they view their artists and their choice with tremendous passion. That's why people can get very upset when we do anything they don't like and they can become very euphoric when we're doing things that they like. We have a very special place I think in, in the psyche of people and how they view us. And Dr. King knew that that was an important source and one of my tasks was to continue to, continuously corral that energy, to reach out to my colleagues and to find the ones who were most vulnerable and willing and open to the information and find out those who were most strategic and find out why they weren't vulnerable and to hold dialogues and what not and that was a constant. And, ah, it began to give us tremendous relief, not only in the PRing[SIC] of our mission but also in the ability to raise funds. After the Vietnam thing and when we went out and started to do concerts and started to, or, or continued to do concerts. Ah, ah, there was a decided fall-off and, ah, we were able to get back some even up, up to the time of Montgomery. And, and, and we were always on the down side but there was a period when, for instance, when we went to Houston, ah, it was the first place where we had been met by, ah, an active calculated disruption, ah, a, a tear gas pellet was thrown into the air conditioning unit which fed into the auditorium that just panicked a lot of people and the concert was disrupted. And, ah, there was a campaign in a lot of places where we went by White John Birchers and people who held up signs, maintained that we were unpatriotic and un American and, and, ah, other devices. And I'm not quite sure that the FBI and a lot of their people were not also playing a part in this, in this kind of instigation of, ah, and disruption. Ah, after Dr. King's death, ah, the arts community continued to respond, especially in the immediate days. As a matter of fact the large convening was held in Atlanta before the funeral in order to determine what we would do in the celebration of Dr. King's death, were we going to take over the stadium? Would there be a concert? Would there be a night watch? We felt we wanted to do that and the arts community was the best one to bring that off because, first of all, media would be sure to be there and we could then turn over the platform to those who articulate the hope of the future and to be able to give a one voice view to the world on what we felt about Dr. King so that we would, so that people would not be lost for information. And, ah, even in that environment, ah, many of us came to, it was a dissension and views that took place and we never pulled it off. But we were able to do other concerts, ah, a big one with Cosby and Barbra Streisand and other people and, and, at the, ah, ah, Hollywood Bowl in, in L.A. and a few other places, to maintain the momentum of the movement, ah, in the immediate days after Dr. King's murder. Ah.