Wednesday, July 20, 2011

My New Hero

(Cue Foofighters and Mariah and The Wind Beneath My Wings.)

If you only see one film at the festival, please make it Sing Your Song. And then get hold of me so we can figure out what we're going to do next.

I had read the little blurb in the booklet but when I arrived at the movie, all I could remember was that Harry Belafonte had had something to do with the Black Civil Rights movement in the USA. In the lobby at the cinema I was one of only three people I could see aged under a hundred, and, unaccompanied, in my hat and green jacket and leather gloves, I felt like a fast woman. I went in and set myself up, five rows from the front so I wouldn't have the distraction of people's heads, and prepared to be entertained. Oh, naive little girl. I wasn't entertained. I was completely enthralled.

I don't want to tell you everything because I want the movie to be as amazing for you as it was for me, so I'll keep it simple. Harry Belafonte went all out to make things better for people. He wasn't just involved in the Black Civil Rights movement; he put himself completely on the line for it. He threw himself behind Native Americans, supported Black South Africans, cultivated a relationship between black America and Africa, and personally dropped food and medical supplies over African countries. He saw things that were wrong and took responsibility for them; he didn't wait, he just did it. He was brave. He missed out on things in his own life because he felt a duty to humanity, and put himself out to make a stand for what he believed in. I'm talking past tense but he's still active, helping at-risk kids in America and trying to inspire other people to do something.

Lately I've been worrying about getting old. You've been privy to some of it (mostly my complaints about physical weakness), but I've also been struggling with the feeling that, in terms of making a difference, I'm nearly obsolete. This probably sounds funny (and I can see the funny side of it too; I'm turning twenty-eight), but I've been thinking about how my experiences have shaped my responses in ways that aren't helpful, and that for things to move forward it's my niece's time. (Yes, she's six, and I can imagine you are laughing now.) But I really felt like, with the choices I've made (doing an arts degree, working in a shop, getting married) and the opportunities I have, that this (not really, but almost) is as far as I can go; sponsoring children and organisations, giving money to men on the street, signing petitions, doing marches, and telling everyone I can about what's going on. I could be a fifties housewife. If I could do anything, it would be aid work, preferably in Palestine, and I'm not doing it, and it makes me feel ashamed, and that I've been really selfish with my life.

After watching Harry Belafonte, though, I feel like my time to help and effect change is far from over. I want to have children soon, but I don't have them yet, and as long as I don't, I'm free to do whatever I can. I can do heaps more than what I'm doing (which, if we're honest, is close to nothing; just a conscience-muffler), and I can try to make it easier for you to do something too, if you want to. You might not have been so pessimistic about what you can do as I have been, but anything but hope and willingness just won't do. I really believe that I'm responsible for you and everybody else, and that the whole point of life is to make things better. I thought it might be enough just to do no harm, but I admit now that I know it isn't, not even close.

I really hope you get to watch the film and that we can give each other some assignments.

(Image from lastfm)

1 comment:

  1. Hear, hear to all of it! But most of all to the King - all that AND Day-o AND being so frontfoot calling out the cretinous Dubya administration. What a great human being. Can you remember Dad crying to 'Scarlet Ribbons'?