New York honors Caribbean icon: Harry Belafonte receives key to the city posthumously

August 23, 2023  -New York City Mayor Eric Adams has recently honored the late Caribbean icon, Harry Belafonte, with a posthumous “Key to the City of New York.”

This gesture acknowledges Belafonte’s wide-ranging contributions to the worlds of music, film, theater, and television.

A voice for civil rights

In addition to his celebrated entertainment career, Belafonte was an influential civil rights leader. 

He prominently participated in key events, notably the March on Washington around 60 years ago.

Mayor Adams extolled Belafonte’s unique ability to intertwine his art with activism, praising him for navigating racial barriers and surpassing the limits of his artistic mediums.

“When daylight comes, and we can all go home, it’s because Harry led the way in letting the light shine through. I am honored to present Harry Belafonte, through his family, with a Key to the City of New York,” Mayor Adams said.

Harry Belafonte
Harry Belafonte. (Photo via CBC News)
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A legacy beyond entertainment

Born to West Indian immigrants in Harlem, New York, Belafonte’s artistic journey began at the American Negro Theatre.

His exceptional talent and dedication led him to achieve the coveted “EGOT” recognition, earning Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony awards throughout his illustrious career.

The significance of the key

Dating back to 1702, the “Key to the City of New York” has a rich history.

Mayor Phillip French first presented it as the “Freedom of the City” to Viscount Edward Cornbury, who was overseeing both New York and New Jersey.

By the mid-19th century, the symbolic gesture had evolved, representing the city’s invitation to guests to feel welcome and move freely.  

Today, Mayor Adams emphasized that the key stands as a “beloved symbol of civic recognition and gratitude,” bestowed upon those whose service to the public achieves the highest standards.

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