On January 21, the day after Donald Trump's inauguration, millions of women will march on Washington. They'll be joined by musician and activist activist Harry Belafonte, who is a co-chair of the Women's March on Washington along with feminist icon Gloria Steinem. It's no surprise that he would align himself with a protest that is looking to defend the marginalized among us. It's something the nearly 90 year old Belafonte has been doing his whole life. Since the 1950s, he has been an outspoken supporter of civil rights, marching with his friend Martin Luther King, Jr. But, in more recent years he has become an outspoken supporter of women's rights as well.
In 2014, at the age of 86, Belafonte gave a speech at the 100th anniversary gala of the African-American fraternity Phi Beta Sigma. He told the crowd of mostly men that he wanted to end the oppression of women worldwide. He then asked every black man to join him in a campaign to end violence against women.
"Let us use this century to be the century when we said we started the mission to end the violence and oppression of women," he said in his speech. "Let us never, ever let our children become the abusers to our women that we permitted in our lifetime."
After the speech Belafonte told The Root that he was inspired to speak out because “the inordinate rise of domestic violence” worldwide. He believed there was a "global indifference" to the brutalization of women, citing the rape epidemic in the Democratic Republic of Congo as an example. In 2015, The Guardian reported that the United Nations called the Central African country the “rape capital of the world."
Belafonte, who spearheaded the 1985 charity single "We Are The World" to raise money for African famine relief, ended his speech by telling the crowd, "It is men who created violence against women. It is men who should end the violence against women.”
It's fitting that Belafonte is once again showing his commitment to women's rights, specifically their safety, as Trump takes office. The president-elect is, after all, a man who once said "you can do anything" to women when you're a celebrity.
In a New York Times op-ed right before Election Day, Belafonte said that Trump promised that he would make American great again "without ever spelling out what we will win — save for the exclusion of 'others,' the reduction of women to sexual tally points, the re-closeting of so many of us." In short, by taking away the rights of those who still struggle for equality.
"Mr. Trump asks us what we have to lose," Belafonte wrote in his New York Times op-ed. "And we must answer: only the dream, only everything." By walking side-by-side with anyone who believes women's right are human rights, and that those rights are in danger, Belafonte shows that the dream is not over, and the fight is just beginning.