Singer and activist Harry Belafonte to speak at Vanderbilt

Harry Belafonte, known as the “King of Calypso” for his artistic endeavors and as a social activist and an outspoken critic of the Bush administration, will speak on Monday, Jan. 14, at the Student Life Center on the Vanderbilt University campus.

The 78-year-old Belafonte was a close collaborator of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and is now a UNICEF goodwill ambassador. He made waves in 2006 by calling President Bush “the greatest terrorist in the world” before leading a delegation that met with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. He also has been outspoken in criticizing the U.S. embargo of Cuba.

“My social and political interests are part of my career. I can’t separate them,” said Belafonte. “My songs reflect the human condition. The role of art isn’t just to show life as it is, but to show life as it should be.”

Belafonte, who popularized the Caribbean musical style in the 1950s, is perhaps best known for singing the “Banana Boat Song,” with its signature lyric “Day-O”. He was the first African American to win an Emmy for his TV special Tonight with Belafonte (1959), received a Tony Award for his participation in the Broadway revue John Murray Anderson’s Almanac and was awarded the Kennedy Center Honors in 1989, the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2000 and the BET Humanitarian Award in 2006.

The event will begin at 6 p.m., preceded by a complimentary reception at 5 p.m. in The Student Life Center. This event is free and open to the public. Reservations are not required, but seating is limited and available on a first-come, first-seated basis. Parking is available at the Terrace Place Garage at 21st Avenue South and Terrace Place.

A live Web cast will be available during the event, but video will not be available afterwards. Video of the lecture will be Webcast from VUCast, Vanderbilt’s news network,

Belafonte’s speech will be the keynote of Vanderbilt’s Martin Luther King Commemorative Series. The lectures and events of the series serve to educate the Vanderbilt and Nashville communities on Dr. King’s historic achievements and his enduring influence. For more information about the Vanderbilt MLK Series, visit

The speech is also part of the 2007-2008 Chancellor’s Lecture Series. The Chancellor’s Lecture Series serves to bring to Vanderbilt and the wider Nashville community intellectuals who are shaping the world today. For more information about the Chancellor’s Lecture Series, visit

Media Contact: Missy Pankake, (615) 322-NEWS

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