Rest well Harry

Harry Belafonte at a special UN event in 2015 at UN Headquarters. (Photo via UN)

The following statement is issued by Professor Sir Hilary Beckles, Vice-Chancellor of The University of the West Indies, on the passing of singer, actor and civil rights activist, Dr. The Honourable Harry Belafonte. Dr. Belafonte, who has Caribbean ancestry, was 96.

“It was with deep sadness that I learned of the passing of Dr. The Honourable Harry Belafonte on April 25, 2023. We at The University of the West Indies (UWI) mourn with his widow, children and grandchildren, and extend to them and their immediate and wider circle our sincere condolences and hope that the tremendous global outpouring of affection will help to sustain them in their time of loss.

Harry was a staunch supporter of The University of the West Indies for more than two decades through his championing of the annual American Foundation for The UWI (AFUWI) galas held in New York to raise funds for scholarships for financially challenged students. His participation at the galas until ill health no longer permitted him to attend in recent years, was always a wonderful thing to behold as he engaged all with that hypnotically husky voice and charm.

Activism and artistry were two defining elements of Harry’s persona. He broke racial barriers when he emerged on the musical stage in North America in the 1950s and throughout his stellar career, he remained steadfast in his stand against racism, particularly through his support for the civil rights movement led by his friend the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., as well as his stance against apartheid.

For his exemplary contributions to artistry and activism, in 1996, The UWI conferred upon him the Degree of Honorary Doctor of Letters. The citation prepared for Harry, itself a work of artistry, reflects on his life and work and captures the gentle giant in a wonderful sentence presenting him for the award “I present Harry Belafonte, singer, actor, theatrical director and producer, freedom fighter, philanthropist, campaigner for human rights and justice.” We are sad that he had to go, but what a tremendous legacy he has left. Rest well Harry, the tallyman has come, time to go home.”

About The UWI

The UWI has been and continues to be a pivotal force in every aspect of Caribbean development; residing at the centre of all efforts to improve the well-being of people across the region.

From a university college of London in Jamaica with 33 medical students in 1948, The UWI is today an internationally respected, global university with near 50,000 students and five campuses: Mona in Jamaica, St. Augustine in Trinidad and Tobago, Cave Hill in Barbados, Five Islands in Antigua and Barbuda and its Open Campus, and 10 global centres in partnership with universities in North America, Latin America, Asia, Africa and Europe.

The UWI offers over 800 certificate, diploma, undergraduate and postgraduate degree options in Culture, Creative and Performing Arts, Food and Agriculture, Engineering, Humanities and Education, Law, Medical Sciences, Science and Technology, Social Sciences, and Sport. As the Caribbean’s leading university, it possesses the largest pool of Caribbean intellect and expertise committed to confronting the critical issues of our region and wider world.

The UWI has been consistently ranked among the top universities globally by the most reputable ranking agency, Times Higher Education (THE). In the latest World University Rankings 2022, released in September 2021, The UWI moved up an impressive 94 places from last year. In the current global field of some 30,000 universities and elite research institutes, The UWI stands among the top 1.5%.

The UWI is the only Caribbean-based university to make the prestigious lists since its debut in the rankings in 2018. In addition to its leading position in the Caribbean, it is also in the top 20 for Latin America and the Caribbean and the top 100 global Golden Age universities (between 50 and 80 years old). The UWI is also featured among the leading universities on THE’s Impact Rankings for its response to the world’s biggest concerns, outlined in the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including Good Health and Wellbeing; Gender Equality and Climate Action.

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(Please note that the proper name of the university is The University of the West Indies, inclusive of the “The”, hence The UWI.)

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