In recognition of this weekend’s 50th Anniversary of Jamaican Independence (1962-2012) LargeUp compiled this historic Toppa Top 50 list running down 50 Great Jamaicans and their outsize contributions on the world stage. Yes, Usain Bolt (the fastest man alive –who not only took the gold in the infamous men’s 100 meter race at the London Olympics on Sunday, but joined Carl Lewis on a very short list of two human beings who have won the event at back-to-back olympics) but so are 49 other outstanding people who you didn’t know were Jamaican. Or knew were Jamaican but never realized how profoundly they had touched your own life. At the risk of shameless self-promotion, I offer my own little contribution on the life of Harry Belafonte below as a sample . Hit the link at bottom to get the full Top 50. Awo. Yuh learn.
Here’s what you know about Harry Belafonte: “The Banana Boat Song.” Here’s what you need to know: The actor and folk singer, born in the U.S. to Jamaican and Martinican parents but raised partially in Jamaica, not only introduced the world to the sounds of Caribbean music, he did it so successfully that his 1956 LP Calypso became the very first million-selling record EVER, single-handedly inventing platinum records before there was such a category. But his legacy lies more in what he did with his success—which is largely bankroll the US civil rights movement of the 1960s. Belafonte not only financially supported MLK, Jr. and his family but helped to finance and organize the March on Washington in 1963. In 1964, Belafonte personally financed the Southern Non-violent Coordinating Committee and their voter registration drives during the famous “Freedom Summer,” personally flying to Mississippi with $60,000 dollars in cash. His role as a progressive catalyst and his tenacious willingness to fight the power–from Apartheid South Africa to his controversial stance on the US invasion of Iraq–has never wavered. And to an extent so huge that it is hard to measure, has shaped the world we live in. Daylight come, indeed.