BLACK VOICES

Harry Belafonte Creates Social Justice Festival With 'Many Rivers To Cross'

The event is billed as the “largest music and arts festival dedicated to racial and social justice.”
The upcoming October festival is billed as the “largest music and arts festival dedicated to racial and social jus
The upcoming October festival is billed as the “largest music and arts festival dedicated to racial and social justice.”

Harry Belafonte is issuing a call of action for music artists and community leaders to address America’s most dire social issues. 

The legendary entertainer’s social justice organization Sankofa.org will host the “Many Rivers To Cross Festival” in Atlanta, Georgia, on Oct. 1. The two-day music and arts event will serve as a platform for artists, community organizers and activists to collaborate on the advancement of voting rights, mass incarceration and police relations ― to name a few.

Jesse Williams, John Legend, Common, Chris Rock and Carlos Santana are among the list of names set to participate. 

Belafonte said during a press call Thursday that the event, which has been billed as the “largest music and arts festival dedicated to racial and social justice,” will give artists the platform to connect their material with topics surrounding relevant issues, such as America’s judicial system.  

“Most of the artists will be dealing with material that’s relevant to the issue of justice and incarceration,” Belafonte said. “One of the things that we asked was that they create material to [discuss] the miscarriage of justice as the case may be.”

The civil rights pioneer added that Sankofa has partnered with BET to film the the event which will be announced at a later date.

In terms of laying the ground work for “Many Rivers To Cross,” Belafonte says he initially met with Prince, who he called “a force,” during its planning phase.

“I was supposed to meet Prince on the week he died,” he said of the late musical icon. “We were going to have our fourth meeting in New York when we got word that he had unfortunately passed away.”

Belafonte says the music icon’s tribute song, “Baltimore” ― which was recorded following the 2015 death of Freddie Gray ― will serve as a centerpiece for the event.

In addition to the list of empowering symposiums and performances, fans will have the opportunity to meet community organizations and thought-leaders at the “Social Justice Village.” There will also be an activation area which will provide attendees with additional info on advancing today’s human rights issues.

For Public Enemy member Chuck D, who is performing at the festival, the importance and urgency of artists and cultural leaders to come together and accept their responsibility for change is long overdue. 

“Historically, artists have come from the communities that face these same issues,” he said during the call. “But for the past 30 years artists have listened to and followed the program of their lawyers, agents, managers who have kind of dangled money in their career to get them away from the accountability and responsibility.

“So this is necessary. Artists linking up with real situations, real people doing real things to redefine our society is necessary.” 

For more info on the “Many Rivers To Cross” festival click here.

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