On 1 March, performer and civil rights activist Harry Belafonte celebrated his 88th birthday. On 8 November last year, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences presented Belafonte with its Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award … and honored with an Oscar the man’s long pursuit of social justice. Swept into the civil rights movement with Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Belafonte eventually shifted most of his energies from entertainment to advocacy: “I’m an activist who also became an actor,” said Belafonte, of his life’s trajectory.
Anthony Anaxagorou, a surprisingly erudite, young scholar, ‘schools us’ in a broader appreciation of what shapes belief structures we circulate blithely as cultural currency. Watch what he has to say on the evolution of Western thought, here.
I feel some pride when I consider the term ‘Western Civilization.’ I believe this constellation of understanding lifts us from a more primal ‘Code of the Jungle.’ From its advancement, I draw higher order human pursuits; like justice, artistic expression, the cultivation of knowledge.
No matter how revolutionary, belief systems that are widely adopted are always influenced by those which preceded them. I’ve looked into the bookshelves of eighteenth century, American revolutionaries who wrote so eloquently about their aspirations to freedom. I’ve found they held texts in common. A pool of classical philosophers helped inspire colonialists to engage in a once-unimaginable rejection of tyranny.
When I joined Coming To The Table over two years ago, I began a journey—a journey into the lives and times of my slave-holding ancestors and, most important for me, into the lives of the people they had enslaved. Taken together, we call ourselves linked descendants.
Along the way, I have participated in discussions with other descendants of enslaved and enslaver, and learned from what they have said to me. In March 2012, I had the opportunity to spend a night in slave quarters with Joseph McGill, founder of the Slave Dwelling Project (http://www.lowcountryafricana.com/2012/04/10/descendants-of-slaveholders-descendants-of-slaves-share-overnight-stay-at-bush-holley-house-greenwich-ct/ ), and other Coming To The Table members, in Connecticut, the last place any of us might associate with slavery.