I just finished watching Harry Belafonte's segment (2nd time today) on Amy Goodman's "Democracy Now!" Specifically, Amy wanted to know why Belafonte, long time friend of the Martin Luther King, Jr. before King's assassination in 1968, and friend of his widow and family afterwards, was invited to speak at Coretta Scott King's funeral but didn't.
It seems Belafonte was asked to deliver a eulogy honoring Mrs. King. But the day after the family's extension of that invitation, it was learned "our president", Bush, would be attending Mrs. King's funeral. The following day, Belafonte received a call revealing he was being uninvited as a speaker at the funeral.
Perhaps a brief review of comments by Belafonte made earlier this year during a visit to Venezuela and it's president, Hugo Chavez, are warranted here. While sharing the same stage with President Chavez, Belafonte said, ""No matter what the greatest tyrant in the world, the greatest terrorist in the world, George W. Bush says, we're here to tell you: Not hundreds, not thousands, but millions of the American people... support your revolution."
But then came the announcement that Bush would be sitting on the stage during Mrs. King's funeral service. Hoping to usurp a little of the Black History of the civil rights movement, I can only surmise; hoping that some would rub off on himself by his staking a token claim to some limelight in this moment of celebrating the heroic life of Dr. King's widow. And because Bush would be there, Harry Belafonte--lifelong friend of the King family--was told he wouldn't be eulogizing Mrs. King but, if he still chose to attend, arrangements would be made for a seat for him in the audience.
But Harry Belafonte took pause to reflect on Mrs. King's funeral by saying, "I saw all of the power of the oppressor represented on the stage, and all those who fought for the victories that this nation was experiencing and enjoying sat in the outhouse, sat out in the field, sat removed, and if it had not been for Rev. Lowery, for President Carter and for Maya Angelou, we would have had no voice and no representation at all."
"In the outhouse," as Belafonte described it. "In the field," as the power elite of our nation struck claim to a seat on the stage to plant its undeserving ass among those who had devoted so much of their lives and energy in support of Mrs. King's efforts to carry forth the torch of decency, of dignity, and civil rights her husband had died for that dark day in 1968.
Many were angry. Some urged Belafonte to challenge those co-opting King's principles as their own, but Belafonte declined saying Coretta's funeral was not the time nor place for such challenges. That they would only distract from the moment.
But Harry Belafonte went on to challenge each of us. To reflect on the children of Dr. and Mrs. King, of their supporters, their followers and the rest of us who would permit the memory of Coretta King to be diminished by the leeches of Christian extremism and political opportunism; to allow her party to be crashed in the final moments of her celebration.