Interview with Harry Belafonte

Just to jump back to Gary, this notion of the artist as political force to which something not common the American political spectrum it was evident there. I mean here you had Baraka, a poet, you were there as an artist. Did people have a sense that they were doing something very unusual?


No, I think those of us who came out of a tradition of art in, in, in, in politics, of course I came out of the '30s. My father was a, was a, was a, was a, was a seaman, unemployed and he was a organizer for the Maritime Union. We did concerts all the time, the Woody Guthries of the world, the folk singers of the world, the folk songs of the period, a lot of writing in that period was writing about social and political issues, Steinbeck and Hemingway and, and, ah, ah, Langston Hughes and James Weldon Johnson and those. So that, there was not a sense that we were unusual, ah. And I'm not too sure when we go to these events incidentally, unless you're performing or unless you're specifically writing a poem, that we're there as artists. We're there as human beings who are doing something that belongs to the family and when we leave that environment we then begin to translate it into our songs and into our poetry and into our plays. Sometimes at these events, we're required to do that because we sing at them. We'll bring political, you know, ah, we, we bring a fabric to rallies by singing songs and, you know, I mean, all, what's a rally without a song? It's a failure. Ah, ah, so that our mix in that was for some of us quite traditional. It was for others quite unique. I mean people who felt that art and politics, never the twain meet. Well, first of all, those people are to me a great query. I don't understand how they can pursue art and in its highest sense and not have a social and a human consciousness and be somehow involved in the affairs of the family of human beings. It's impossible. I mean to me all great art does that. It's the only art that, that, that, that's meaningful and tangible.