Singer, actor, and activist Harry Belafonte is set to speak at the University of Oklahoma Thursday night, but the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs calls him a radical leftist and wants to know why he's speaking.
Now, Belafonte is known for his singing but throughout his career he became a well-known, civil rights activist. He was friends with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and played major roles in the civil rights movement. Belafonte also won Tony and Emmy awards for his work as a singer and actor.
OCPA president Jonathon Small released a statement in response to Belafonte's "public discussion" at OU.
Harry Belafonte recently described the presidency of Donald Trump as "the Fourth Reich." At a time when Oklahoma’s higher education system is asking for increased government subsidies, and when privately raised funds could be used for noble purposes such as reducing tuition costs, why would the state’s flagship university choose to stick a thumb in the eye of the 65 percent of Oklahomans who voted for Mr. Trump? Is OU’s guest suggesting that 65 percent of Oklahomans are essentially Nazis?
Mr. Belafonte is a radical leftist who has praised Fidel Castro, Hugo Chavez, and Cold War spies Ethel and Julius Rosenberg. He has suggested that black Republicans such as Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice are race traitors or house slaves. As a black Oklahoman who has worked in Oklahoma City public schools, who helped create an organization that will give millions of scholarship dollars to needy Oklahoma students, and who runs an organization that fights every day for the most vulnerable among us, I find it offensive that President David Boren and the University of Oklahoma are going to such great lengths to promote someone who refers to people like me as house slaves.
Though Mr. Belafonte has every right to speak on campus, taxpayers have every right to wonder why so many tax-funded administrators and faculty give preferential treatment to the cultural Left and why prominent black conservatives don’t receive equal billing.
In the past, OU President David Boren has eloquently reminded all Americans of our responsibility to protect the human rights of all people. just before noon on Thursday, Boren released the following statement on Belafonte's presence:
Harry Belafonte has been a champion of human rights causes for his entire adult life, and we were proud to invite him to the University of Oklahoma. We are grateful for his visit to our campus, which was funded by private gifts. A world-renowned artist and humanitarian, Mr. Belafonte worked with Martin Luther King, Jr., John F. Kennedy and Nelson Mandela on various human rights efforts. He was the driving force behind the 1985 “We Are the World” project and served as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador.
Over the years, OU has welcomed a variety of notable speakers from across the ideological spectrum. In my time as President, we have heard from Margaret Thatcher, George H.W. Bush, Bob Dole, John McCain, Rudy Giuliani, Robert Gates, George Will, Henry Kissinger, Alan Simpson, James Baker, Gen. Brent Scowcroft, Kathleen Parker and other conservatives. In 2007, OU welcomed one of the most prominent African-American Republicans in our nation’s history: former Secretary of State Colin Powell.
As an institution of higher education, it is our duty to encourage vibrant public discourse and independent thought. We will continue to invite stimulating public figures of all points of view to speak on our campus.