Sidney Poitier introduces Harry Belafonte to the crowd at the N. A. A. C. P. Image Awards
Sidney Poitier speaks,
“Thank you, Thank you so much,
Harry Belafonte, you have always been a gutsy guy, I was very often near enough to have been a witness to that fact. Your destiny had anchored you in the very heart of the civil rights struggle, and you stayed at the heart of it, and became an invaluable energy force and was excepted by the entire leadership of that monumental struggle. Some of whom were preachers, some were teachers, some were lawyers, some were every day folks with a passion for a democracy that did not yet exist for people of color. (Applause) Even for the native Americans who were the original indigenous tribal people(Applause), who had been here in early America for thousands of years.(Applause) It has always been your habit pattern, to think not just of yourself, but what is honorable and what is just for others. Harry I have known you for the better part of a century, and your friendship, your presence and your leadership have always been a source of joy and I take great pride in presenting to you this most fitting award. It is my honor to present this year’s Spingarn Medal to you, to YOU, Mr. HARRY BELAFONTE.” (Applause)
“Did you say, almost a century?” (Laughter) Wow! Harry Belafonte says, looking back at Sidney Poitier who had eloquently introduced the 85 year-old Artist ~ Activist.
Mr. Belafonte continued,
“Let me start off first saying, thank you to the N. A. A. C. P. and Ben Jealous, for the work you do, the path you’re forging for us in these troubled times. The group most devastated by America’s obsession with the gun, is African Americans. Although making comparisons can be dangerous, there are times when they must be noted. America has the largest prison population in the world. And of the over 2 million men, women, and children who make up the incarcerated, the overwhelming majority is black. We are the most unemployed, the most caught in the unjust systems of justice, and in the gun game, we are the most hunted. The river of blood that washes the streets of our nation flows mostly from the bodies of our black children. Yet, as the great debate emerges on the question of the gun, white America discusses the constitutional issue of ownership, while no one speaks of the consequences of our racial carnage. (Applause)
The question is, where is the raised voice of black America? Why are we mute? Where are (Applause) Where are our leaders? Our legislators? Where is the Church? (Applause)
Not all, but many have been the recipients of this distinguished award. Many were men and women who spoke up to remedy the ills of the nation. They were committed to radical thought. They were my mentors, my inspiration, my moral compass. Through them I understood America’s greatness, Dr. W.E.B. Dubois, Martin Luther King Jr., Eleanor Roosevelt, and others like Fannie Lou Hammer, Ella Baker, Bobby Kennedy, Condi Rice and perhaps most important for me, Paul Robeson.
He was the sparrow. He was an artist who made us understand the depth of that calling, when he said, “Artists are the gatekeepers of truth. We are civilization’s radical voice.”
Never in the history of Black America, has they ever been such a harvest of truly gifted and powerful artists as we witness today, (camera on Jamie Foxx) yet our nation hungers for their radical song. (Applause) Let us not sit back silently. Let us not be charged with patriotic treason. (camera on Samuel L. Jackson) I thank my friend Sidney Poitier for stepping to the plate. I promise you Sid, you’ll never have to do this again. (Laughter) But, my congratulations to all those who are honored here tonight. And I’ll tell you, our kids, those who languish in the prisons of America, are waiting on us to change the system.”
Then Jamie Foxx spoke.