Harry's Day O
BY RICHARD JOHNSON
Observer senior reporter
Tuesday, August 07, 2018
HARRY Belafonte heads the list of persons who are set to receive national honours and awards on Heroes' Day October 15. The actor, singer human rights activist, and philanthropist will be inducted into the Order of Merit, Jamaica's third highest award for his outstanding contribution in the field of music.
The list of this year's recipients was made public yesterday.
Herbie Miller, curator of the Jamaica Music Museum, said Belafonte is indeed deserving of the high honour from the Government and people of Jamaica.
“Harry Belafonte has so many great attributes, not the least is his steadfast commitment to this country. He never denied the fact that he was partially Jamaican, despite not being born here, and that his formative years spent on the island prepared him for everything he has achieved in life. In the 1970s, he was a staunch supporter of the direction Jamaica was taking politically, including its non-aligned status and the country's advocacy on international political matters such as Apartheid in South Africa. He was a civil rights activist of the highest order and worked closely with Martin Luther King Jr in the United States. His work in the arts, including film and music, is well documented,” Miller told the Jamaica Observer. “For me, Harry Belafonte is a great ambassador for what Jamaica represents and can represent, and he never failed to support and trumpet to cause of this country.”
He rubbished the notion that Belafonte was not deserving of such a high honour since he was not born here.
“He has put in the work, and it's clear for all to see. If we should look at that then we would not consider the work and contribution of musicians and artistes like Rita Marley, Tommy McCook, Roland Alphonso, and Rico Rodriques, who were all born in Cuba; sportsman George Headley, who was born in Panama and former Prime Minister Edward Seaga who was born in the United States. That just doesn't cut it. Belafonte is absolutely deserving of the honour,” said Miller.
Belafonte, 91, was born Harold George Bellanfanti Jr in Harlem, New York, to a Jamaican mother Melvine Love. His father is said to be from the French West Indies — Martinique. He spent eight years of his early life in Jamaica.
Musically his breakthrough album Calypso was released in 1956 and became the first LP in the world “to sell over one million copies within a year. This album gave birth to the now famous Banana Boat Song (Day O); Jump in the Line, and Jamaica Farewell.
On the big screen, Belafonte is most remembered for his work in Otto Preminger's Carmen Jones (1964) opposite Dorothy Dandridge. His other credits include roles in Island in The Sun, Buck and the Preacher, Odds Against Tomorrow, and Uptown Saturday Night.
The other representatives from from the arts and entertainment are actress Grace Jones, who will receive the Order of Jamaica. Broadcaster Winston Barnes will be receiving the Order of Distinction in the Rank of Commander. Filmmaker and author Barbara Blake-Hannah, broadcaster Walter “Bob” Clarke, deejay Winston “Yellowman” Foster; former Reggae Sumfest promoter Johnny Gourzong; broadcaster Dermot Hussey; actress, broadcaster and poet Joan Andrea Hutchinson; and cabaret singer Sheila Rickards will all receive the Order of Distinction in the Rank of Officer.
Conductor of the Kingston College Chapel Choir Audley Davidson will be recognised for his service as a music educator and is set to receive the Badge of Honour for Meritorious Service. While radio disc jock Donovan Dacres has been awarded the Badge of Honour for Long and Faithful Service for his work in the music industry.