Harry Belafonte delivers keynote address for Black History Month
by Kaylee Engle
Harry Belafonte received a standing ovation as he walked onto the stage in McCain Auditorium at 4 p.m. on Feb. 10 to deliver the keynote address for Kansas State University’s Black History Month. The College of Arts and Sciences helped sponsor the Black Student Union bring the world-renown entertainer and civil rights activist to K-State.
“Co-sponsoring and hosting a leader and change-agent with Mr. Belafonte’s experiences is so important to our university family,” said Peter Dorhout, dean of the College of Arts & Sciences. “It was an honor to share the stage with our historic and our future leaders who are building and supporting a diverse community of citizens who embrace Mr. Belafonte’s messages. This was a fabulous apogee to the campus Dr. Martin Luther King, Junior, celebrations and Black History Month.”
The BSU executive board picked Belafonte to be the keynote speaker due to his instrumental part of the civil rights movement and involvement with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The board was honored that he accepted the invitation.
“This is historic,” Brandon Clark, program coordinator of the Office of Diversity and adviser to the BSU, said. “It’s great to have a speaker with such name recognition, such history, who was there as it happened, walked with Dr. King. But beyond Dr. King, there are so many others who are nameless whose name aren’t more known. This is just very historic for our university, for the students and the Manhattan community to have him actually come here to K-State.”
Belafonte’s address focused on the class and race war American youth are facing today. After a time where young civil rights activists brought America a new time of honor, America fell silent. Belafonte said it became distracted by greed and the nation lost its young leaders and their voices. It needs its adolescences to speak up again to reflect on the legacy and rights they have been given.
“Now I look around and there are very few voices, if any, saying the things that the people of our country need to hear, need desperately to hear, because our distraction has led us to not even have a minute in the day where most of us are preoccupied with any of this stuff I’m talking about,” Belafonte said.
Marcus Bragg, senior in management marketing systems and K-State BSU president, concluded the keynote address by awarding Belafonte the Stacy Hall Humanitarian Award on behalf of the BSU for his decades of contributions to human rights and continued activism for social justice and equality.
The keynote address played a significant role in continuing K-State’s progress towards valuing diversity.
“I think the point of us bringing in a speaker every year is so we can further enclose our course of confidence so that we can learn to appreciate diversity more and so that Kansas State can be a better more inclusive place after each speaker who comes here and gives a lecture and leaves,” Bragg said. “Appreciating diversity is not just being color blind and ignoring our differences. It’s a celebration of our differences, and that’s what truly is diversity.”