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Mayor, New York Public Library Rename 115th Street Library for Harry Belafonte

May 8, 2017

During plaque unveiling ceremony, Belafonte’s legendary musical career & civil rights leadership were celebrated

NEW YORK—Mayor Bill de Blasio, First Lady Chirlane McCray and New York Public Library President Tony Marx, alongside local elected officials, today honored Harry Belafonte by renaming the 115th Street Library the Harry Belafonte–115th Street Library. Harry Belafonte took part in the plaque unveiling ceremony held at the library in Harlem.

“It is an honor to rename the 115th Street Library for Harry Belafonte, who is not just a legendary artist and musician, but one of the preeminent voices of conscience of the last half century,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “I have personally drawn inspiration from Mr. Belafonte’s unbroken commitment to making the world a better place, which he has carried with him since childhood. As a native New Yorker of Caribbean descent, he is also a living testament to how immigrants like his parents help make this the greatest city in the world. Now this library will serve as a living reminder of Mr. Belafonte’s music, values and activism for generations to come.”

“The Harry Belafonte-115th Street Library will be an enduring testament to a great son of Harlem and the Caribbean,” said First Lady Chirlane McCray. “Harry Belafonte has modeled an exemplary standard of service for today’s artists. The ‘King of Calypso’ captured audiences with his soothing melodies, but never shied away from the more daunting task of fighting injustice, whether at home during the Civil Rights Movement, or abroad in South Africa tackling apartheid. It is his profound belief in human rights that transcends borders and time and that makes Harry Belafonte, forever the Renaissance man.”
"Harry Belafonte has dedicated his life to standing up and fighting for his fellow man, and we are proud that this legacy and spirit will inspire all those who enter the newly-named Harry Belafonte-115th Street library in Harlem," said NYPL President Tony Marx. "We thank Mayor de Blasio for partnering with us on this initiative to celebrate a champion of civil rights, who believes - as we do - in opportunities for all."

"I am deeply honored the City of New York has chosen to commemorate me by naming a public library in my name,” said Harry Belafonte. I have had a love affair with NYC since the day I was born. My mother & father could have made no better choice when coming to this city. I am deeply thankful to Mayor De Blasio and New York Public Library President, Tony Marx to bestow this honor upon me. The library system of New York has been an integral part of my life. It has offered me a life of opportunity I, perhaps, would have never known. I love New York and I love the people of this great city.”
The Library chose to name the branch to reflect the values and passions of the community in which it is located and to honor Belafonte, who grew up in Harlem and has since been a vital part of the Harlem and larger community.

Harry Belafonte has spent his life exposing Americans to world music and challenging and overturning racial barriers across the globe. Recently, Belafonte founded the Sankofa Justice & Equity Fund, a non-profit social justice organization that utilizes the power of culture and celebrity in partnership with activism. In November 2014, Belafonte received the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. In November at the 2016 Library Lions gala, Belafonte was honored as a Library Lion.

“Harry Belafonte’s art and his tireless work for social justice have long been intertwined, and both have made their mark on New York. It’s only fitting that a neighborhood library providing free access to literature, art, and music will bear his name,” said Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer. “All kinds of people from all walks of life have helped write the history of this city, and honoring them in the names of streets and buildings is one of our finest traditions.”

"Harry Belafonte is a Harlem treasure and today’s renaming of the 115th Street library in his honor – to honor his life, legacy and contributions to the global community – is a fitting tribute to such a remarkable and talented individual," said Rep. Adriano Espaillat.

“In honor of Harry Belafonte and how he has continuously represented the spirit of Harlem and the Caribbean, through the greatness of his art and the strength of his character in fighting for civil right and human dignity for all peoples, the renaming of the 115th Street Library is only a small token of appreciation for the many gifts of freedom he has given us.  We thank you, we love you, and we are better because of you,” said Assembly Member Inez Dickens.

"As a celebrated musician and dedicated activist, Harry Belafonte spoke truth to power and helped open the doors of opportunity for so many,” said Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer. “Libraries have always been a place to ask the tough questions, to confront difficult truths, and to realize a more just society. The renaming of the 115th Street Library to the Harry Belafonte-115th Street Library will inspire the next generation and serve as a reminder that each of us has the responsibility to use our own unique talents and abilities to improve our community."

"We are honored and privileged in this generation to know and witness the legacy of Harry Belafonte. It's only fitting to rename this Harlem Library after this great man who has done much in our lifetime as a strong advocate for civil rights. Libraries are symbolic of the inspiration and progress of a community. The renaming of this library after Harry Belafonte is not just a tribute to someone who is well known, it stands as a reminder of community advocacy and growth for generations to come," said Council Member Andy King, Chair of the Subcommittee on Libraries.

"Mr. Belafonte has entertained and inspired millions of people throughout the world with his incredible artistic talents. Through his voice he has also raised awareness for civil rights and social justice. It's only fitting that we celebrate the legacy of this great son of Harlem and New Yorker by renaming the 115th Street Library, Harry Belafonte in his honor,” said Council Member Bill Perkins.

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