Prime Minister of Jamaica, the Most Hon. Portia Simpson Miller, on November 10, paid tribute to noted Tony Award winning actor and African-American entertainer and producer, Harry Belafonte, whose achievement she described as an inspiration to Jamaica and the world.
Mr. Belafonte was honoured with an award at the 17th Carib News Awards Dinner at the Montego Bay Civic Centre in St. James, at which the Prime Minister was the keynote speaker.
In her address, Mrs. Simpson Miller noted that Mr. Belafonte grew up in Jamaica where he was provided with “early context and content to construct the character and fierce conviction”, for which he became renowned.
“So authentic and sincere has the Hon. Harry Belafonte’s representation and embodiment of the culture of Jamaica been, that one can understand why we love this wonderful brother and our hearts and our spirits are so aligned to his. I maintain that until he produces his birth certificate, Harry is a Jamaican who happened to be in Harlem (USA),” she pointed out.
Mrs. Simpson Miller noted that much of Mr. Belafonte’s life was reminiscent of and honoured the very best in the people of Jamaica.
“What I have read of Harry fascinates me, if for no other reason than that I can identify the manifestation of the Jamaican gene in how he has lived his life. I can identify at least five commonalities between Mr. Belafonte and the best of the Jamaican culture and spirit.
“Like Jamaicans, Harry, all his life, has used what comes to hand (and has been) inventive, adaptive and (in the process) succeeding against incredible odds. These are attributes that are deeply imbedded in Jamaica’s culture. They are informed by a sense of fierce independence from a shameful past of slavery and colonial exploitation,” the Prime Minister argued.
In highlighting other positive traits in Mr. Belafonte’s life, Prime Minister Simpson Miller pointed out that the honouree embraced the world with passion, curiosity and originality.
“Jamaicans stand out in a crowd… loyal real, people who will tell you like it is (and) we have the record to show. We gave the world (National Hero, the Right Excellent Marcus) Garvey, (late Reggae exponent, Bob) Marley, (former Prime Ministers the Most Hon. Michael) Manley, (and, the Most Hon. P.J.) Patterson, (late Reggae artiste Peter) Tosh, (World and Olympic sprint record holder, Usain) Bolt and, yes, Harry, and Sheryl Lee Ralph!” she pointed out.
In this regard, the Prime Minister said among the things which her administration will do is seek to ensure that the nation can capitalise on the global appeal and popularity of the Jamaican brand, which she said Mr. Belafonte was instrumental in helping to shape and define.
“A strong national brand helps to attract investment, talents, consumers and tourists, and enhances the country’s cultural and political influence,” Mrs. Simpson Miller contended.