For the thousands who attended the Many Rivers to Cross Festival this past weekend in Chattahoochee Hills, Ga. (just outside of Atlanta), it was a historic musical event. Entertainment icon and activist Harry Belafonte sang for the first time in 12 years, which was part of the grand finale musical presentation called “Stir it Up,” which he curated especially for the event and produced by his organization, Sankofa.org
The Many Rivers To Cross festival featured a multiplicity of celebrities, artists and activists including (but definitely not limited to) Dave Matthews, Carlos Santana, Rosario Dawson, Common, John Legend, Macklemore, Jesse Williams, Danny Glover, Wanda Sykes, T.I. and Sonia Sanchez, just to name a few.
Belafonte sang a stirring version of Pete Seeger’s “Those Three on My Mind,” a song dedicated to three slain civil rights workers James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner (originally featured on his 1967 album “Belafonte on Campus”), who were murdered by law enforcement and the Klan in Mississippi in 1964 while trying to register black voters.
Belafonte also participated in several private talks, curated by social justice organization, Blackbird, featuring social justice leaders and celebrity panelists where he gave advice to celebrities and activists alike on tactics his generation used to push for change. The talks were focused on how to end mass incarceration and the privatization of prisons and ensuring that everyone has the right to vote and access to the ballot rights.
“We are so grateful for all of our supporters who came out for the Many Rivers to Cross Festival and like most first time events, it wasn’t without its challenges,” said Gina Belafonte, co-exec Director of Sankofa.org and one of the producers of the festival. “However, we hope fans understood the spirit of what we were trying to do; create a space in which artists, activists, thought-leaders and fans can unify and organize at this critical time in our country, and have some fun in the process.”
The festival was sponsored by leading organizations and brands that support social justice on a national, state and local level including 1199 /SEIU, Ben & Jerry’s, Color of Change, Headcount, ProGeorgia, 9to5 Atlanta, Planned Parenthood Southeast, Campaign for Black Male Achievement, Amnesty International, AFL-CIO and the ACLU. All had activations encouraging fans to vote.
Ben & Jerry’s encouraged fans to register to vote or to sign the petition to reinstate the voting rights acts by serving free scoops of their “Empower Mint.”
By Jimmy Tee