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Harry Belafonte's family holds birthday celebration at Manhattan church to honor late musician, activist

Harry Belafonte celebrated on what would have been his 97th birthday
Harry Belafonte celebrated on what would have been his 97th birthday 02:14

NEW YORK -- Harry Belafonte's family celebrated the late actor, musician and civil rights activist Friday on what would have been his 97th birthday.

He died in April 2023.

"Happy birthday, Dad ... We thought this would be beautiful way to honor his legacy," daughter Gina Belafonte said.

"A lot of people are here to get a last little bit of Harry," daughter Shari Belafonte said.

Friends and family honored Harry Belafonte at Riverside Church in Morningside Heights, nearly one year after he died.

 "I think he's proud right now he's being recognized," daughter Adrienne Belafonte Biesemeyer said.

The night was filled with performances as Harry Belafonte was remembered for his artistry. His first album, "Calypso," introduced Caribbean folk music to American audiences, selling more than 1 million copies in its first year.

"Fantastic entertainer, but he did so much to help other people," New Rochelle resident Bill Henry said.

Belafonte used his voice to support the civil rights movement. As a close confidant of Martin Luther King, he helped organize the legendary March on Washington in 1963.

"He pretty much single-handedly funded the civil rights movement," Belafonte Biesemeyer said.

"The fact that he did so much to help everybody. Black yes, but everybody... was wonderful," Harlem resident Ruby Sprott said.

Belafonte's legacy will live on through the two nonprofit organizations he founded, the Gathering For Justice and

"He never stopped, and so I want people to remember the fact he gave his all," said Carmen Perez Jordan, with Gathering for Justice.

Belafonte's family says they have an even bigger celebration in the works to celebrate his 100th birthday in a few years.

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