Singer/actor Harry Belafonte takes part in the “Artists and Activism” panel session at the 102nd NAACP Annual Convention in Los Angeles, Wednesday, July 27, 2011. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello)
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Harry Belafonte says Hollywood has yet to explore the breadth of black experience and that the industry will “never ever yield to the needs of people of color.”
The 84-year-old entertainer made the remarks at a presentation on artists and activism held Wednesday during the 102nd annual National Association for the Advancement of Colored People’s Convention.
Actor Louis Gossett Jr., actress-singer Tatyana Ali, actor-author Hill Harper and members of the Black Stuntmen’s Association appeared alongside Belafonte at the panel discussion. He urged the NAACP to form a group of artists and thinkers to inspire the kind of “radical thought” necessary for change, and he called on black actors and filmmakers to “come together and create some institutional base that’s ours.”
“It seems to me that long ago we could have put together black studios, put together a black distribution center,” Belafonte said. “Maybe we couldn’t reach 100 million, but we could reach 100,000, and have 100,000 exposed to a great truth. I’d rather have that than 100 million exposed to something vacuous and inaccurate.”
Belafonte said that “in pursuit of ego, in pursuit of large, ridiculous sums of money, we have sold our birthright that somehow we are more victim than we are responsible.”
Though he was the most outspoken of the panelists, the other actors agreed that black artists and consumers are responsible for changing the way the entertainment industry represents people of color.
“It’s very hard to find roles that I can be proud of,” said Ali, 32. “The archetypes for black women specifically have not fully been explored.”