“Nobody has brought us as close to the kind of tyranny that I see created in the war I fought in, which is the Second World War, as we’ve done with Trump,” the 90-year-old Belafonte was allegedly recorded as saying during a recent talk at the Carnegie Music Hall in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Belafonte fears Trump could eventually steer the U.S. towards atrocities that were witnessed during WWII if Americans don’t put a stop to his actions.
“I think the next mistake might very well be the gas chamber and what happened to Jews (under) Hitler is not too far from our door,” said the man who was born Harold George Bellanfanti Jr. in New York, but spent many years in Jamaica where his mother Melvine Bellanfanti was born.
The cultural icon, whose father Harold Sr. was from Martinique, became a popular actor and singer, with “The Banana Boat Song” - and its “Day O!” line - among his most popular hits.
But Belafonte sounded an increasingly sour note while discussing Trump and the lack of more public opposition to the president and his brazen agenda.
“I don’t understand how (Trump) can say what he does about women … It’s not codified. It’s right there in your face for you to see and hear,” Belafonte explained, possibly referring to Trump’s admission of abusing women.
“…Where is that voice … to answer this tyranny? Why has this man (Trump) been permitted to come this far? What is America doing to itself before he gets away with this? They’re prone to repeat this mistake.”
Belafonte, who was an active participant in the U.S. civil rights movement and marched with icons such as Martin Luther King Jr., was disappointed in the response of Americans of color to Trump.
“It’s up to each and everyone of us to ensure that they don’t get away with it,” Belafonte said, before adding later in his talk, “… How black people in this country can let this president get away with what he’s doing.”
Belafonte, who admitted to failing health, said he still can’t believe Trump has become president after the years he witnessed Americans struggle for equal rights and justice.
“I’m somewhat puzzled that I’ve lived long enough to see, at the end of my life, that America has chosen Donald Trump to become the voice of this nation,” he said. “I don’t think we understood quite what we did. I don’t think we understood what was waiting for us. I think many of us were blindsided.
“But let’s not dismiss the fact that many who supported him supported him for specifically what he is and there is that part of America which still needs to be counseled ...”
Belafonte, who praised his mother’s Caribbean roots, “strength and dignity,” still believes the U.S. has accomplished plenty during his own “remarkable journey” and more positives will come.
“We have achieved a lot in my lifetime,” Belafonte said. “Dr. (Martin Luther) King was not about nothing. (Former U.S. First Lady) Eleanor Roosevelt was not about nothing.
“I think in the final analysis that we shall overcome because what we did is … we left a harvest that generations to come (will) reap. That they have not yet plowed. That they have not yet harvested.”
Known as the “King of Calypso”, Belafonte was the first African American to win an Emmy Award. He also won Grammy and Tony awards. He also received the honorary Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award at the Academy Awards in 2014.
He said he had no fear of repercussions speaking out against Trump and he yearns to continue as a spokesman for justice.
“After 90 years old there is very little they can do to me for speaking the truth; the greater truth to power,” Belafonte said. “… The reward for having done what I’ve done is so stunning … I’ve become greedy for more of that experience.”
Belafonte, however, does have regrets. He said he sacrificed many aspects of his life during years of activism, including career and relationships with family and friends, but yet feels the mission is incomplete as he witnesses crimes against African Americans and influence of “greed” on a broken system in the U.S. He said the “system” needed repair, including the parts which allowed Trump to be elected president despite getting three million votes less than his political opponent Hillary Clinton.
“The task is yet to be fulfilled,” Belafonte said.