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Belafonte daughters offer tribute in Lewisburg

Register-Herald photo by Rick Barbero The Martin Luther King Day March on Washington Street in Lewisburg Monday morning.
Register-Herald photo by Rick Barbero
The Martin Luther King Day March on Washington Street in Lewisburg Monday morning.

LEWISBURG, W.Va. — Presenting many iterations of the cry, “We need an assignment,” two daughters of acclaimed performer and civil rights activist Harry Belafonte concluded with a task for the crowd of more than 300 people assembled for a Martin Luther King Jr. Day event in Greenbrier County.

Activists in their own right, Adrienne Biesemeyer and Gina Belafonte put together a fitting tribute to their father on Monday, interspersing clips of the documentary “Sing Your Song” with personal commentary relevant to the ongoing fight for civil justice.

 “The level of apathy in the United States … is what appalls me,” Biesemeyer told the audience in the sanctuary of the Lewisburg United Methodist Church. Stressing that recognizing injustice is not the same thing as actually doing something to effect a change, she echoed the words of the late performer and activist Ruby Dee, captured in the film — “We need an assignment.”

Gina Belafonte added, “It’s up to all of us … as a human community to make sure our laws are just.”

Both women emphasized that the involvement of young people is essential to the current struggle, just as it was in the early days of the civil rights movement in which their father was a key figure.

Belafonte pointed out that her father was only 28 when he met then 26-year-old King. Many of the organizers of the 1965 Selma march — dramatized in the Oscar-nominated film “Selma” currently in theaters — were teenagers, she said.

“There were many, many, many people who came together to make the (civil rights) movement happen,” Belafonte said.

A Greenbrier Valley resident for 36 years now, Biesemeyer applauded the community of Hillsboro and the students of High Rocks for Girls for taking a stand against a random incident of racism that was recently directed toward the owners of Hillsboro’s Pretty Penny Cafe…

 

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