Last night I was invited to appear on stage at the Town Hall theater in Times Square as part of a grand celebration of one of our greatest living artists and activists, Mr. Harry Belafonte — on his 95th birthday! Others taking the stage included Alicia Keys, Spike Lee, Angela Bassett, Danny Glover, Laurence Fishburne, Whoopi Goldberg, Doug E. Fresh, Bill T. Jones and Cornel West.
This was my first time in a theater since I was campaigning with Bernie in New Hampshire over two years ago. It was personally an uplifting moment for me to be out and around good (vaccinated) people who are on the front lines in the fight for our Democracy — as are all of you.
If you don’t mind, I thought you might like to read my remarks from last night, and I’d love to share them with you. So here they are! Enjoy!
Hello. I’m Michael Moore.
Tonight we celebrate and honor the great Harry Belafonte on his 95th birthday.
Hello, Harry! Happy 95th!
Think of everything you’ve seen in these 95 years! Just a few hours after you were born, the infamous right-wing Judge Robert Bork — the judge who supported poll taxes in the South and carried out Nixon’s orders to fire the Watergate Special Prosecutor — he was born just two hours after you!
Coincidence? Who knows? It doesn’t really mean anything other than that during the pandemic I guess I’ve had a lot of free time to look up random things like, “who also was born on March 1, 1927?” Or that the biggest movie in that year you were born starred a white man in blackface (The Jazz Singer). You came into this world just 62 years after slavery and the Civil War. Women at that time in 1927 had only voted in two presidential elections — 150 years after the Declaration of Independence. There was no Voting Rights Act for Black Americans.
Just like now.
Harry, you have been a beacon for so many righteous causes for so many decades and while we still have much work to do, I am strangely hopeful. There is a shrine in New York City — and I’ve never told you this — but each time I come to see you in your home, there‘s a picture hanging in the hallway by your front door — and each time I pass it, I touch it. We live now in a time of despair, where there are days that seem utterly hopeless — but I always feel better when I touch this photograph!
It is of you and your dear and close friend, Martin Luther King, Jr. The two of you are laughing hysterically. I had never seen Dr. King laughing. It looks like you may have just whispered something in his ear — and then you both just howled.
What did you say?!
YOU made Martin Luther King… Laugh! I look at this and I can’t help but smile myself, and chuckle, and each time when I leave, after time spent with you and Pam, I feel hope in a way I never feel it. I feel Joy. I believe in The Possibilities. I love You and everything you’ve given us.
I’m here on this stage tonight to present, in your honor, the Harry Belafonte Social Justice Award to, among others, a brave American whose work you and I greatly admire.
Congresswoman Barbara Lee began her political life as a young woman serving as the campaign manager for Black Panther leader, Bobby Seale in his run for Mayor of Oakland, California. (Spike, there’s gotta be a movie in there somewhere!)
Congresswoman Lee received her Masters of Social Work from UC-Berkeley, specializing in psychiatric social work. During her graduate work, she founded the Community Health Alliance for Neighborhood Growth and Education (CHANGE, Inc.) which provided mental health services to many of the East Bay’s most vulnerable individuals.
She has represented California’s 13th District in Congress since 1998. She is the highest ranking African American woman in the Democratic Leadership.
But she will always be remembered by me and by many of you for her historic “profile in courage” when, just three days after 9/11, out of the 535 members of Congress, including the U.S. Senate, she was THE ONLY ONE to vote against the U.S. invading Afghanistan, the only one to vote against war. At a time when more than 70% of the country was in a rage for revenge at any cost, Barbara Lee was the one, lone — and, I can imagine, lonely — voice for peace and sanity.
Her singular action proved sadly prescient as that authorization vote was, as she had warned, “a blank check for the president to take us into endless war.” Every liberal, every progressive in Congress voted for this invasion that was the gateway to another war in Iraq. The Afghanistan War became America’s longest war, one that was not brought to an end until just a few months ago — some 20+ years after Congresswoman Lee tried to prevent it from happening. Thousands of Americans sadly died in a war crime that killed over a million Iraqis and Afghans. Will God ever forgive us? Will the Iraqis, or the Afghans? Will we?
So tonight, I’d like to present to Barbara Lee, on behalf of Harry, this Social Justice Award.
Congresswoman Lee is, as we speak right now, seated on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives, participating in President Biden’s first State of the Union address, so unfortunately she can’t be here. (I know what you’re thinking — Congress? Or Broadway! If that’s your choice, isn’t it a no-brainer?!)
I want to close by thanking everyone here, and to Harry’s daughter, Gina, for organizing this event.
And to all of you — Don’t give up. There’s more of us than there are of them. No amount of crazy and Q-Anon can change that.
And, to quote Spike, that’s the truth, Ruth.
Great speech. Two exceptional human beings- thank you Mike, thank you Congresswoman Lee, and especially thank you Mr Belafonte. His career and his activism are an inspiration. He is the best of this country.
Thanks for that honor for Barbara Lee. YES! There are more of us than them. We have to stick together to win!