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EXCLUSIVE: Harry Belafonte on Amnesty International, Mali Music, and Why He'll Never Retire

Legendary singer, actor and activist Harry Belafonte spoke to ESSENCE.com about his involvement with Amnesty International and his hopes for future generations of artists.
EXCLUSIVE: Harry Belafonte on Amnesty International, Mali Music, and Why He’ll Never Retire
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Inarguably, one of the greatest human rights leaders of our time is Harry Belafonte. Over the past weekend, he spoke on the celebrity panel at Amnesty International’s Art for Amnesty event to encourage artists of all genres to stand up for the rights of others.

“Any violation of rights is a great violation,” he told ESSENCE.com. “I see what young people are doing and how they’re struggling for values and a level of existence that has in many instances eluded them. They’e what makes the difference.”

Belafonte has been a longtime supporter of Amnesty International and has traveled the world working on the behalf of the global citizens whose rights have been stripped away by war or dictatorship. Belafonte even developed his own organization, Sankofa, to combine cultural expression with community activism “so that artists can become more connected to the community.”

“I think some artists are connected and some artists are very conscious and sensitive to what’s going on in the world around them,” he said. Belafonte has strong admiration some of our favorite celebs for what they do to spread a message of human rights including Common, Chuck D and young up-and-comer, Mali Music.

“I’m particularly pleased with a young artist that’s coming up now by the name of Mali Music. I think he’s just absolutely a slam dunk. These artists whom I have met speak in terms of trying to develop a social vocabulary. And I admire that.”

Even with hundreds of artists and activists rising up to take on the fight for rights, 88-year-old Harry Belafonte knows his work is far from over. He doesn’t plan to stop speaking up for rights of humans around the world anytime soon.

“It’s not possible because life ends only with death. And being an activist is a part of life,” he said. “I’ve always been an activist. I could not imagine being in a space that does not involve my activism.”