Singer and activist Harry Belafonte has accused America of “criminalising poverty”.
The Calypso vocalist, now in the 80s, talked about music, politics and his struggle against racism in an interview on Radio 4 on Monday.
Yet he reserved his most stinging criticism for President Obama, and his role in the continued “demonisation’ of those who suffer from poverty in the US.
On Obama, who Belafonte “worked for” on his 2008 campaign, he said: “I am very disappointed by him”.
Though he said he would campaign for him again, the singer added: “My criticism of Obama is not based on petty politics; it’s not Republican versus Democrat. It’s to do with deeply provoking human circumstances.”
“America has the largest prison population in the world. By far the largest majority of that population is black and young, and the incarceration machine is relentless in how it carnivorously sucks up the young and the poor.”
Belafonte added: “America has criminalised poverty and if you criminalise poverty there is a huge class of people that are going to be demonised.”
The singer said the President of the United States of America has “a moral obligation to change the direction of this tragedy”.
By not doing so, the president had “abused, misused or lost the real essence of why he was voted by many of us to be the president," he said.
“A deeper and more profound issue is what have you done for the cause of human development, the human heart, the human spirit.”
Enjoy Harry Belafonte's Banana Boat song (1956):