NEW YORK (CMC) – New York City Mayor Eric Adams has posthumously awarded a “Key to the City of New York” to legendary Caribbean performer and civil rights activist Harry Belafonte for his decades of entertainment in music, film, theatre and television.
Belafonte was also given the award for his leadership on national civil rights issues, which included playing a major role in the March on Washington nearly 60 years ago.
Known as the “King of Calypso,” Adams said Belafonte, who died on April 25 this year, was “a singular, multi-generational, international cultural trailblazer.
“The legacy of Harry Belafonte, from music to movies to civil rights, is unparalleled. He balanced artistry and activism with a voice that pushed through racial boundaries and transcended the confines of the recording studio,” Adams said.
“When daylight comes, and we can all go home, it’s because Harry led the way in letting the light shine through. I am honoured to present Harry Belafonte, through his family, with a Key to the City of New York,” the mayor said, adding that Belafonte was one of the most prolific performers in history.
Born in Harlem, New York to West Indian immigrants, Belafonte trained at the American Negro Theatre and would later become one of the few to earn the “EGOT” title, as he was the recipient of Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony awards.
The “Key to the City of New York” was first awarded in 1702 by New York City Mayor Phillip French, when he offered “Freedom of the City” to Viscount Edward Cornbury, the then-governor of New York and New Jersey.
By the mid-1800s, it became customary to award the “Key to the City of New York” as a direct symbol of the city’s wish that a guest feel free to come and go at will.
Adams said that the “Key to the City of New York” is a “beloved symbol of civic recognition and gratitude reserved for individuals whose service to the public and the common good rises to the highest level of achievement”.