Toppa Top 50: Fifty Great Jamaicans

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Harry Belafonte

Here’s what you know about Harry Belafonte: “The Banana Boat Song.” Here’s what you need to know: The actor and folk singer, born in the U.S. to Jamaican and Martinican parents but raised partially in Jamaica, not only introduced the world to the sounds of Caribbean music, he did it so successfully that his 1956 LP Calypso became the very first million-selling record EVER, single-handedly inventing platinum records before there was such a category. But his legacy lies more in what he did with his successβ€”which is largely bankroll the US civil rights movement of the 1960s. Belafonte not only financially supported MLK, Jr. and his family but helped to finance and organize the March on Washington in 1963. In 1964, Belafonte personally financed the Southern Non-violent Coordinating Committee and their voter registration drives during the famous “Freedom Summer,” flying to Mississippi with $60,000 dollars in cash. His role as a progressive catalyst and tenacious willingness to fight the power–from Apartheid South Africa to his controversial stance on the US invasion of Iraq–has never wavered. And to an extent so huge that it is hard to measure, shaping the world we live in. Daylight come, indeed.β€”Eddie “Stats” Houghton

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