Harry Belafonte challenges African-Americans at NAACP awards ceremony: ‘In the gun game, we are the most hunted’
Singer makes impassioned appeal to black Americans, accusing them of failing to speak out over the problem of gun violence
Veteran singer and civil rights activist Harry Belafonte has weighed
in on the debate over gun violence, chastising fellow black Americans
for failing to speak out on the issue.
Belafonte, 85, whose singing career helped popularise calypso music,
was receiving an NAACP Image Award at a ceremony in Los Angeles on
Friday night, and used the opportunity to launch an impassioned appeal.
“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,” Belafonte said. “Where is the raised voice of black
America? Why are we mute?”
The singer was being recognised for decades of political activism
that have run alongside his entertainment career. Belafonte was a close
confidant of Martin Luther King, and has remained a committed voice on
issues of poverty and racism ever since King’s death.
Belafonte’s comments come at a time of impassioned argument over gun
ownership in the US in the wake of the tragic Newtown school shooting at
the end of last year. President Barack Obama has proposed a series of
restrictions on gun laws, but faces stiff opposition from the powerful
National Rifle Association and its allies in the Republican party and
The remarks also come at the end of a week which saw the killing of
15-year-old Hadiya Pendleton, a black honours student, in Chicago, just
days after performing at Obama’s inauguration. Hadiya, a student at the
elite Kings College prep school and majorette in the school’s marching
band, had performed with her classmates at several inauguration events
last week in Washington.
She was shot dead on Tuesday afternoon after school, sheltering from
torrential rain sweeping Obama’s hometown in a park in the city’s South
Side with a group of friends, police said. She was the 42nd death from
gun violence in Chicago this year.
According to the Brady Campaign, which advocates gun control, about
100,000 Americans are wounded or killed by guns each year. One of its
studies showed US murder rates are almost seven times higher than rates
in 22 other populous high-income countries who have similar rates of
lower level crime. The same study showed that America’s firearms
homicide rate is almost 20 times higher.