Mayor Kasim Reed presented Civil Rights icon Harry Belefonte with the Phoenix Award, while city council declared Thursday, Sept. 29 at "Harry Belafonte Day." (Photos by Terry Shropshire for Atlanta Daily World and Real Times Media).

Mayor Kasim Reed (center) presented Civil Rights icon Harry Belafonte (right) with the Phoenix Award, while Atlanta City Council declared Thursday, Sept. 29 as “Harry Belafonte Day.” (Photos by Terry Shropshire for Atlanta Daily World and Real Times Media).


ATLANTA — It was apropos for American royalty to be flanked by a “king” and Atlanta’s mayor during the “Many Rivers to Cross” town hall meeting.

Harry Belafonte, the actor and activist icon from the Civil Rights era, sat next to the “King of the South,” rapper Tip “T.I.” Harris, with Mayor Kasim Reed on the other side as the headliners for the town hall discussion that happened in northwest Atlanta at The Gathering Spot ahead of the two-day music festival on Saturday and Sunday.

Hosted by radio personality Frank Ski, the six-person panel discussed racial terrorism, police brutality and voter registration before an enthusiastic overflowing crowd.

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Harris showed his latest video that addresses that exactly – depicting black officers and white citizens in mock scenarios.

“First of all, I would like to wish everyone a happy ‘Harry Belafonte Day,’” said T.I. to resounding applause after Atlanta City Council declared the day for the legend.

“I think it’s important to always reach back and provide truth and knowledge that comes from a place like Mr. Belafonte, or even you Frank Ski or Mayor Kasim Reed or Ambassador Andrew Young,” Tip said. “I remember a reverend telling me that this generation’s way of solving a problem in their community is by moving out of it … so the only success that (young) members of the community see are the things leaving the community. So the only things that are left are not examples of success. So the only way for there to be a relevant and concise example of success in the community, somebody has to give a damn enough to stay or to come back and participate.”img_8295

Before Mayor Reed addressed how Atlanta handled its own downtown protest of 10,000 people, he presented Belafonte with the Phoenix Award, the highest honor that the city’s CEO can present to an individual. Reed said it was because of the work and wisdom Belafonte provided that enabled him to forge a successful career in the statehouse and as mayor. The Atlanta City Council also declared Thursday, Sept. 29 at “Harry Belafonte Day.”img_8320

“Everybody had advice on what I should do and how I should crack down and why aren’t you arresting people,” he said. “My response was to go and have a conversation with them and the reason I think we got through that night, really, is because we treated each other with respect.”

“Everybody had advice on what I should do and how I should crack down and why aren’t you arresting people,” he said. “My response was to go and have a conversation with them and the reason I think we got through that night, really, is because we treated each other with respect.”

The festival, put on by Sankofa.org, will be a harmonious marriage of artistry and social messaging from A-list talent from across the country, including Public Enemy, Chris Rock, Common, Carlos Santana, comedian Wanda Sykes, actor Jesse Williams, Dr. Cornel West and many, many others.

The event begins Saturday at Chattahoochee Hills and runs through Sunday.

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