On Friday 30 August 2013, legendary singer/songwriter, actor, social activist, and long-time UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Harry Belafonte officially opened the 4th edition of the Curaçao North Sea Jazz Festival 2013 with an inspirational speech calling for continuous action to fight poverty.
My name is Harry Belafonte and I am an artist. It is said that artists are the gatekeepers of truth, that artists are civilization’s ‘radical voice’.
Those of you who are gathered here this evening have come to celebrate… to enjoy the gift of being… You have come here to be anointed by the many artists who bring you their gift.
They will entertain you… they will inform you… and in the end it is their hope that you will be inspired. But I am standing here tonight to share with you a story, a story that must be heard, the story of a global tragedy that is all too persistent.
Right now… standing here in Curaçao. The time is 6.35 pm… One hour from now, at 7.35 pm… more than 400 children will have died. For every minute that ticks away, seven children die. By the end of the day 10.000 children will have left us. By the end of the year the lives of 4.000.000 children will have been destroyed… not from war… not from famine… they will die from poverty… from human neglect… they will die from our indifference… and all of these children will be less than six years old.
Poverty is a cruel thing… it kills hope… it kills opportunity… it suffocates life. In 1985 I called together a number of artists to use their collective gift of creativity… to use the power of their global popularity to shine a light on the darkness of hunger… and human desperation… and in answer to that call, they gave us a song… “We are the world, we are the children, we are the ones to make a better day, so let’s start giving.”
With that song… those artists made the world pay attention and, for a moment, the global family lived up to the image of its greater self. But all too soon that world drifted. It closed its eyes to the good deeds it had done.
Today more than two billion people live in poverty… more than one billion people live on less than a dollar a day… poverty tells the story of who we are… and, all too often, it reveals the dark side of our beliefs… it dulls our emotions… it numbs our feelings. Poverty impinges on our dignity, our happiness, it harvests humiliation and cultivates fear.
For over a quarter of a century, I have served the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund. UNICEF has never turned away from the needs of our children globally, but all too often at UNICEF our human resources struggle to keep up with the consequences of the vastness of man’s inhumanity to man.
Despite all this, UNICEF stays the course. In 2015… just two years from today, the United Nations has set for us a goal… a goal for the world to cut in half the overwhelming number of its poor… This worthy calling has inspired many to join efforts to help alleviate poverty. There is no better a moment for music to speak to our hearts, to connect us with those who are suffering.
All of you here gathered this evening could validate the belief that music has the power to be a compass for the human heart… the power to awaken our deeper humanity to the belief that all that is wrong with our world is fixable.
Wherever in the world you live, wherever you may be, you will hear the sound of music and the voice of singers urging you to support our campaign to end poverty.
At that moment, you should let your voice be part of our chorus as we sing our song. In the end, this will be a story to tell our children and our grandchildren that we were part of the tidal wave for a more humane world.
Enjoy our artists.
Enjoy their music.
Enjoy the evening.