Performer, activist Harry Belafonte to give MLK Symposium keynote


Harry Belafonte, groundbreaking recording artist, actor and social activist, is the keynote speaker for the 28th annual Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Symposium, presented in January at the University of Michigan.

Belafonte will deliver the traditional address at 10 a.m. Jan. 20 in Hill Auditorium. It is the centerpiece of the Jan. 13-Feb. 7 symposium, one of the top national observances to honor King.

Harry Belafonte

The symposium theme, selected by the MLK Symposium Planning Committee, is “Power, Justice, Love: Heal the Divide.” King was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964 for his message of love, inspired by Mahatma Gandhi.

In an address that year at the University of Oslo, King said, “Man must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love.”

 “Harry Belafonte is a national treasure who has crossed generations as an artist and as a political activist. The Office of Academic Multicultural Initiatives and the Ross School are very pleased to have the opportunity to host Mr. Belafonte as our keynote speaker. We believe that the greater university community will be responsive to his message,” said Gloria Taylor, OAMI executive director.

Taylor said presenting the annual seminar takes a tremendous amount of work by faculty, students, staff and administrators, which reflects the university’s strong commitment to advancing the principles for which King stood.

Belafonte is as well known for his social activism and pursuit of social justice as he is for performing. His album “Calypso” made him the first artist in history to sell more than 1 million LPs. He has won a Tony Award, and won an Emmy for “An Evening with Belafonte,” for which he was the first black producer in television. He also was awarded the National Medal for the Arts by President Clinton.

Belafonte’s honors in the social justice arena include the Martin Luther King Jr. Peace Prize and the Nelson Mandela Courage Award. Belafonte worked with King, President John F. Kennedy and Nelson Mandela, and was a force behind the 1985 “We Are the World” project to help people affected by war, drought and famine in Africa. He served as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador and is a recipient of a Kennedy Center Honor for excellence in the performing arts.

Among more than 20 MLK Symposium events involving a range of campus sponsors, key events include:

• “The Power of Protest: Black Student Activism at the University of Michigan,” a discussion from 4-6 p.m. Jan. 14 at 5511 Haven Hall, in the Department of Afroamerican and African Studies Lemuel Johnson Center.

• “A Tribute to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: Art Expression & Poetry Slam,” 5-7 p.m. Jan. 20 in Stamps Auditorium. Sponsored by students, it will feature poets, singers, dancers, musicians and art.

“To have students so deeply involved speaks volumes to how King’s legacy is relevant to today, and to the campus of the University of Michigan, and shows students understand the activist work that King did,” said Lumas Helaire, OAMI assistant director.

Belafonte’s keynote address will be simulcast at the U-M Detroit Center, 3663 Woodward Ave.



  1. Elizabeth Becker
    on January 20, 2014 at 11:32 am

    Is this address available to view on the web?

  2. Elizabeth Mosley
    on January 20, 2014 at 11:35 am

    I was wondering if the event was recorded and will be posted online? I was unable to make the event, and would very much like to hear his address!

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