Last week, on Wednesday, February 8th, I was able to hear from the “King of Calypso” himself. Harry Belafonte, one of the most successful African-American pop stars in history has been a well-known human and political rights activist for numerous years. After receiving two incredibly sincere, heartfelt introductions, Belafonte took the stage. Rather than boast of his achievements and current goals, he simply told, with both humor and passion, his life story. Belafonte, who suffered from dyslexia, struggled as a teen to succeed academically. After dropping out of school, he became a janitor. This job, that seemed hopeless and grim, ended up changed the trajectory of Belafonte’s life forever.
After completing his shift, rather than being given money, he was given two tickets to see a play. He attended the performance out of sheer curiosity, having had no former knowledge of theatre or the arts. The play was about black life, performed by black actors and written by a black playwright. He was enthralled by what he saw and realized afterwards that he had found his calling. Through hard work and determination, Belafonte was given opportunities to showcase his talent. As his fame increased, so did his platform. Because he longed to use the stage to impact people, he decided to learn multiple languages and begin to sing songs about social and human development for a variety of audiences.
Sociology is the study of human behavior, society, and organizations and how they develop and function. This event applies to sociology because a brave man recognized his ability to change the social issues he did not agree with and knew were hurting and misrepresenting his culture. He recognized the value of human life and decided to use his power and access to help people who were being unfairly stereotyped and stigmatized. Belafonte has and continues to impact lives all over the world as he advocates for change.