Seeing Harry Belafonte in Portland, Oregon
From Jim Akre: (dated
March 15, 2015)
Yesterday I saw the film Selma
which is the chronicle of Martin Luther King's three-month campaign to
secure equal voting rights via an epic march from Selma to Montgomery,
Alabama in 1965. It was excellent by any standard, and I wouldn't hesitate
to recommend it, particularly to people of our generation. But that is not
the only reason I am sending this post today.
Turkey X (rural community development, 1966-1968) was a group of what turned
out to be a minority of Peace Corps Volunteer trainees to participate in a
relatively short-lived special training program
recollection is that it didn't last long, primarily in view of the high
attrition rate between junior year of college and graduation).
So, there we were, 40 or so of us in the summer of 1965, enduring the daily
rigors of six a.m. gym workouts and intensive training in the Turkish
language at Portland State (then) College (now University). Given the
countless entertainment opportunities in a city the size of Portland,
Oregon, I don't recall ever being at a loss for enjoyable things to do,
especially on weekends.
No doubt most Turkey Ten-ers recall the evening in early August 1965 when we
managed to secure a bloc of tickets to attend the Harry Belafonte show - he
was touring with Nana Mouskouri - at the Paramount Theater
Perhaps you also remember that Harry Belafonte was a member of the first
National Advisory Council to the Peace Corps
Clearly, someone had alerted him to our presence in the audience. Not only
did he generously greet us from the stage, way up in the "nose-bleed
section" as he described the top-row cheap seats where we were sitting;
after the show, we were also ushered back stage to meet him in person (Nana
was nowhere in sight).
Back, briefly, to the film Selma. Even if you have not already seen it, you
won't be surprised to know that some of the original black & white film
footage from 1965 was interspersed with today's dramatization. This included
during the last few minutes of the film when Glory, the 2015 Oscar winner
for Best Song
was featured. And there, among the familiar celebrities of the period who
had gone to Selma to support MLK and the Selma marchers was the solemn-faced
man we had had the pleasure of meeting back stage that summer evening in
Portland nearly 50 years ago.
From Todd Boressoff (dated March
I have the answer to the mystery
about how Harry Belafonte knew we Turkey 10 volunteers were in the audience.
The afternoon before the show Bob
Pearlstein and I, believing ourselves to be budding organizers, talked our
way into the theater where Mr. Belafonte was to perform. We said we were
Peace Corps volunteers in training and that since he was on the national
advisory committee we were certain he would be pleased to meet us.
After getting passed perhaps three
levels of protectors we entered the small room that he was rehearsing in.
He was absolutely furious to see us and told us to get the hell out.
Fortunately, some of his staff
wrote down that a group of us would be attending that evening, which led to
our being generously invited backstage.