Harry Belafonte makes guns plea: 'Where is the raised voice of black America?'

Singer makes impassioned appeal to black Americans, accusing them of failing to speak out over the problem of gun violence

Veteran singer and civil rights activist Harry Belafonte has weighed in on the debate over gun violence, chastising fellow black Americans for failing to speak out on the issue.

Belafonte, 85, whose singing career helped popularise calypso music, was receiving an NAACP Image Award at a ceremony in Los Angeles on Friday night, and used the opportunity to launch an impassioned appeal.

"In the gun game, we are the most hunted. The river of blood that washes the streets of our nation flows mostly from the bodies of our black children," Belafonte said. "Where is the raised voice of black America? Why are we mute?"

The singer was being recognised for decades of political activism that have run alongside his entertainment career. Belafonte was a close confidant of Martin Luther King, and has remained a committed voice on issues of poverty and racism ever since King's death.

Belafonte's comments come at a time of impassioned argument over gun ownership in the US in the wake of the tragic Newtown school shooting at the end of last year. President Barack Obama has proposed a series of restrictions on gun laws, but faces stiff opposition from the powerful National Rifle Association and its allies in the Republican party and elsewhere.

The remarks also come at the end of a week which saw the killing of 15-year-old Hadiya Pendleton, a black honours student, in Chicago, just days after performing at Obama's inauguration. Hadiya, a student at the elite Kings College prep school and majorette in the school's marching band, had performed with her classmates at several inauguration events last week in Washington.

She was shot dead on Tuesday afternoon after school, sheltering from torrential rain sweeping Obama's hometown in a park in the city's South Side with a group of friends, police said. She was the 42nd death from gun violence in Chicago this year.

According to the Brady Campaign, which advocates gun control, about 100,000 Americans are wounded or killed by guns each year. One of its studies showed US murder rates are almost seven times higher than rates in 22 other populous high-income countries who have similar rates of lower level crime. The same study showed that America's firearms homicide rate is almost 20 times higher.


Paul Harris in New York

The GuardianTramp

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