Belafonte Highlights Community Heroes Celebration

Human rights activist and artist Harry Belafonte talks about his life during the annual Lecture on Human Rights held in Faneuil Hall by the Armenian Heritage Foundation, Thursday, Nov. 3, 2016. Photo by Silvia Mazzocchin/BU News Service
Written by Shannon Golden

By Shannon Golden
BU News Service

Local community leaders were honored Friday night at Action for Boston Community Development’s annual Community Heroes Celebration. The event, which recognized selfless community leaders, was highlighted by award-winning artist and social activist Harry Belafonte.

The event paid tribute to hall of fame inductees, James Brett and state Rep. Gloria Fox, D-Roxbury, as well as 19 community volunteers.

ABCD is a non-profit in the Boston area that works to give people the skills and tools needed to escape poverty. It provides services ranging from housing and homeless prevention to fuel assistance and adult basic education, and many more in between.

“ABCD is the greatest anti-poverty organization in the country,” said U.S. Sen. Ed Markey. “The Chicago Cubs may be the world champions in baseball, but ABCD is the world champion in anti-poverty.”

The ballroom at the Boston Marriot Copley Place was completely filled for the celebration event which occurred after a social hour that allowed mingling between the honorees and guests.

“Tonight we get the chance to honor these heroes and leaders,” Byron Pitts told Boston University News Service before the main event started. “There is a lane for everyone to serve others in their own way.”

An award-winning journalist who has 20 years of reporting experience, Pitts explained how for journalists serve the community by holding others accountable.

“We as journalists shed light in dark places,” Pitts said. “We hold people accountable for their actions.”

Video tributes for Brett and Fox opened the main event. Brett is the President and CEO of The New England Council, a non-partisan alliance of businesses and organizations throughout New England which promotes funding for STEM education in order to promote economic growth and improve quality of life in the region. Brett is also a strong advocate for helping those with intellectual disabilities.

Fox has represented Roxbury in the state House of Representatives since 1987. She has been an advocate for reforming the Department of Social Services and has acted as a community organizer.

The keynote speech was one of the most awaited for moments of the night. The speech given by Harry Belafonte, who is known for his signature rendition of “Banana Boat Song” and his social justice work.

Belafonte touched on topics including racial disparities in prisons and social inequality and oppression.

“I don’t think the struggle for civil rights and human rights will ever end,” Belafonte said. “Diversity is the real engine for humanity working together.”

The heroes honored at the event serve the Boston community in many different ways. The honorees work ranged from serving the disabled, to working with minority communities, to dealing with health disparities in the Boston area. All of the work done is aimed at creating better lives and opportunities for disadvantaged people.

“This is great work that we have done to lead people out of poverty,” Fox said. “The work we have done to lead people to excellence.”

Both Pitts and Belafonte discussed their own personal struggles with escaping hardships and poverty to achieving their own personal excellence. Both men grew up with single mothers in poverty. They explained how their struggles taught them to always help others whenever it is possible.

“None of us should be indifferent to our opportunities to change the world,” Pitts said. “America is the greatest country in the world because we take care of each other. We are all God’s children.”

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