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Harry Belafonte Celebrated During a Concert at Aaron Davis Hall

Legendary artist and activist Harry Belafonte was celebrated during a concert at Aaron Davis Hall on Thursday. “Turn the World Around: The Music and Legacy of Harry Belafonte,” a special evening of songs and stories in honor of and on the icon’s 91st birthday, was attended by Belafonte and a slew of his family and friends. Presented by City College Center for the Arts (CCCA), the concert consisted of performances by members of the Belafonte Alumni Group, a collection of artists who have toured with and shared the stage with Belafonte for decades, including vocalists Ty Stephens and Branice McKenzie and Belafonte musical director Richard Cummings Jr.

Always in the vanguard, Harry Belafonte has had a remarkable career spanning the industries of music, film, theater and beyond. Belafonte first garnered international acclaim in a singing career that introduced global audiences to calypso music with hit songs such as “Banana Boat Song (Day-O)” and “Matilda”; he went on to star in groundbreaking films including Carmen Jones (1954), Odds Against Tomorrow (1959) and Buck and the Preacher (1972). In addition to a pioneering entertainment career, Belafonte is renowned as an unflinching fighter for social justice. His dedication to humanitarianism has included working as a civil rights activist alongside Martin Luther King Jr., fighting in the anti-apartheid movement, organizing the 1985 “We Are the World” famine relief song and working to end countless other injustices around the world.

The evening featured a multimedia presentation of photos from Belafonte’s life and career and songs from the Belafonte catalog performed by those who know him best. Belafonte’s former band mates shared anecdotes of their time with the legend onstage. Under the musical direction of Richard Cummings Jr., Stephens and McKenzie were joined by fellow Belafonte Alumni Group members, including La Tanya Hall, Sam McKelton, Sharon Brooks, Gabrielle Lee, DeBorah Sharpe-Taylor and Roumel Reaux. They were accompanied by Emanuel “Chulo” Gatewood (bass), Damon DueWhite (drums), Gregg Fine (electric guitar), Paul Ricci (acoustic guitar), Neil Clarke (percussion) and John F. Adams (keyboard).

“This production is part of the development of an ongoing tour of this material designed to expose audiences everywhere to Harry’s music and to his amazing life. There is no one carrying his musical legacy forward, thus far. It’s up to us,” stated Ty Stephens, event organizer and member of the Belafonte Alumni Group.

“Twenty-eight years ago, Harry Belafonte gathered a committee of artists, community leaders, and politicians responsible for creating one of the most memorable events in the history of Aaron Davis Hall. The event was a special ABC Nightline Town Hall Meeting with Ted Koppel and Mr. Nelson Mandela. We have never forgotten all that Mr. Belafonte has done for Aaron Davis Hall and this community and it is only fitting we participate in this special celebration in his honor,” said CCCA Managing Director Gregory Shanck.

City College Center for the Arts can be followed on Twitter at @ccnyarts. For more information on the “Turn the World Around” tribute concert and other events at Aaron Davis Hall, visit

About the Author

New York Trend is a weekly news publication that focuses on issues and lifestyles of the African & Caribbean American communities throughout the New York metropolitan area and Nassau and Suffolk Counties of Long Island. It is a respected and well recognized news publication that has been in existence since 1989. Owner, Publisher and Executive Director, Dr. Teresa Taylor Williams has been at the helm of this award-winning publication since its inception. New York Trend continues to be the only black woman-owned, metropolitan newspaper in New York and Long island. New York Trend is the largest black-owned newspaper throughout Nassau and Suffolk counties.

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