The Harlem School of the Arts, on July 23 announced, the addition of esteemed cultural icon and civil rights activist, Harry Belafonte, to its Advisory Council. Belafonte joins an eclectic list of influential names, with diverse experience, expertise and insight, who provide guidance, and serve as stewards of this historic cultural institution.
It seems fitting that the 56-year-old organization, founded by an artist (Dorothy Maynor), in answer to a significant need in her community, has now attracted the interest of Mr. Belafonte, an ardent proponent of the arts as a tool for transformative change. Mr. Belafonte has said that his life has been guided by his mentor, Paul Robeson’s words, “artists are the gatekeepers of truth, they are civilization’s radical voice.” Throughout his storied career, Belafonte has been known for using his artistic platform to champion a wide variety of civil and human rights causes, and to call attention to social justice issues.
Responding to the news, Charles J. Hamilton, Jr., chair of the HSA Board of Directors had this to say, “Harry Belafonte is one of our country’s treasures, a hero of the Civil Rights movement, a celebrated, award-winning performer who has deeply influenced American culture and the world. We are extremely honored to welcome him to the Advisory Council and to the HSA family.”
Eric Pryor, president of the organization added, “We at HSA, could not be prouder to have Harlem’s own, Mr. Harry Belafonte, add his name in support of the institution, and its mission to provide children in the Harlem community, and all across the tristate area, with access to quality, world-class training and a rich multidisciplinary artistic experience.”
Belafonte’s decision came after a conversation with his good friend, award-winning musician, Herb Alpert. “When I asked Harry if he would consider being on the advisory board, without hesitation, he said ‘I happily say yes’…We are honored.”
The legendary trumpeter and his wife, Grammy Award-winning vocalist and author Lani Hall Alpert, have demonstrated their philanthropic commitment to the arts community, investing millions in support of arts education programs and organizations that include the Harlem School of the Arts. Over the past decade, the institution has been the beneficiary of over $17 million dollars in funding from the Herb Alpert Foundation, including $9.5 million dollars for the renovation and modernization of the institution’s 37,000 square foot facility, which is now nearing completion.