Talib Kweli, John Forté, Aloe Blacc, Alice Smith, Gaël Gaye, Common, Sheila E, Dough E Fresh, Usher, Angelique Kidjo and more Honor Harry Belafonte at Harlem’s Apollo Theater
Tony Bennett once said, “There is no place on earth like the Apollo.” The Harlem theater that launched the careers of Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Sammy Davis Jr., Jimi Hendrix, James Brown, Diana Ross & The Supremes, Wilson Picket, Gladys Knight & the Pips, Dionne Warwick, The Jackson 5, Patti LeBelle, Marvin Gaye, Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, Luther Vandross, The Isley Brothers and Lauryn Hill, paid tribute last night to industry legend and Civil Rights and Human Rights Activist Harry Belafonte on his 93d Birthday and on the 55th anniversary of Bloody Sunday. Those paying tribe included, Alice Smith, Gaël Gaye, Common, Sheila E. Resistance Revival Chorus, Angelique Kidjo, IMPACT Repertory Theatre, Doug E Fresh, Usher, and The Mighty Sparrow. However, our personal highlight was Talib Kweli, John Forté and Aloe Blacc performing ‘Get By.’
It brought us back to 2003. We were waiting for Mos Def and Kanye to join; however, Forté and Blacc not only held their own but excelled. Perhaps it was the stage? Or maybe it was that Harry Belafonte was sitting in the fourth row with a big smile on his face? There is something so powerful about watching an elder who paved the way and broke barriers for musicians like Kweli, Forté, and Blacc.
It is hard to put into words the magic that occurred Sunday night at the Apollo. But as Bennet said, it’s no surprise. The stage radiates excellence. Everyone was there to honor and perform for Harry Belafonte, the “king of Calypso.” The man, the legend, the Icon who marched with Martin Luther King, fought Apartheid in South Africa and lives every day to help those ensure they have civil liberties. With the help of students’ IMPACT Repertory Theatre, Aloe Blacc performed a Spiritual that moved the audience close the tears.
It was most fitting that the students came out at the end, with all performers to swing “Stir It Up” with the emphasis of “for freedom” to honor the man who for all his life has fought for freedom.