Belafonte and Civil Rights Icons Honored

Phi Beta Sigma Celebrates Centennial

Barrington M. Salmon | 1/15/2014, 3 p.m.
The Phi Beta Sigma fraternity’s Centennial Founders Ball had a distinctive Civil Rights flavor as more than 1,000 fraternity members ...
Harry Belafonte served as the keynote speaker at Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity's Centennial Founder's Day Gala held at the Renaissance Hotel on Saturday, Jan. 11. Belafonte also challenged the crowd to fight vigorously against violence directed toward women. Photo by Roy Lewis

The crowd stood up and applauded when Belafonte challenged them to fight vigorously against violence against women.

“My contribution as a new member of the fraternity is to sucker all of you into coming with me and man up and stand up. When the time comes, we will be in touch and you will be informed to join us in this movement in the 21st century,” Belafonte said to cheers and sustained applause. “Let us use this century to be the century where we say we started the mission to end the violence and oppression of women.”

Activists around the world are preparing to kick off a global project against domestic violence. And on Father’s Day this year, he said, activists in South Africa, Angola, Congo, Nigeria, Berlin, London and Paris will be “stepping up into this moment.”

“We will accept the responsibility for what we have done in the abuse of women and we acknowledge that abuse and we are here to declare ourselves as the tenders to the future to never, ever let our children be the abusers of women in our lifetime,” said Belafonte. “ … The 21st century mission to focus on the plight of the savagery and brutalization of women in some parts of the world – not only the brutalization of those in war – but the brutalization of domestic application, brutalizing women continually. It is men who created violence against women. It is men who should end the violence against women.”

Mason quickly and gladly accepted the challenge.

Vivian reminded guests that they had to make a difference in the community and that politics by itself is not enough.

“You have that thing that’s about politics and depth, but you have to know that politics won’t get it by itself, if it hasn’t a moral and spiritual component,” said the veteran Civil Rights activist who founded Upward Bound. “… The reason why we have any organization is to save the rest of us. Save those worth saving because they’re gonna save someone else.”

And with 2.3 million Americans behind bars, Vivian said fraternity members had to do more to help the incarcerated.

“We’ve got a million black men in jail, and we don’t seem to be doing anything about it. Are you the people who will allow one million black men to fade? Some of them belong there, but if you’re serious about freedom, you don’t lie about this situation.”