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Monday, May 08, 2023


by Donna Katzin

On April 25, 2023, the world lost beloved artist and activist Harry Belafonte after nearly a century of barrier-breaking music and work for social justice.  He played a major role in the U.S. Civil Rights Movement and anti-apartheid movement, and campaigns at home and abroad. He lived only five years after the death of his renowned friend, Hugh Masekela, who has been described as "the father of  African jazz."  Masekela gave voice to the struggle for freedom in South Africa—and around the world.


Their kindred cries

pierced our consciousness,

awakened us with irresistible reveilles

of "Day’O" and blasts of a sleepless horn

on two thirsting sides

of the same ocean.


On Calypso waves

and thunderstorms of jazz,

they bore us across seas and continents,

linking melodies and arms with others

in the push and pull of brothers,

igniting voices of a new time.


With silver tongue and golden trumpet,

they faced apartheid, Ku Klux Klan, Jim Crow—

unblinking in the face of whips and bullets,

released our inner rivers when we tired,

rekindling the fire in our blood

and our rebellious hearts.


They filled our streets with relentless rhythms,

marched with Black miners, laborers hungering

for the promises that gleamed

like ripe bananas in the sun,

mended our torn souls with

lullabies and love songs.


Today they are together, once again,

and we are left with their legacies

and indefatigable rhythms.

We can listen, hear them

—Harry and Hugh—

raising hell in heaven.

Donna Katzin is the founding and former executive director of Shared Interest, which facilitates access to credit for low-income Black Southern Africans.  She co-coordinates Tipitapa Partners, which helps feed and empower impoverished mothers and children in Nicaragua, and serves on the board of Community Change in the U.S.  A proud wife and mother, she is also a contributor to New Verse News and author of With These Hands—poems about the "new" South Africa giving birth to itself.