The nod from Belafonte comes as Sanders has been seeking to boost his standing among African-American voters as he heads into the South Carolina Democratic primary on Feb. 27. On Wednesday, following his commanding victory over former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in the New Hampshire primary, Sanders had a meeting with the Rev. Al Sharpton in Harlem — a sit-down over coffee that yielded photos that were widely distributed via social media.
“I would suggest to those of you who have not yet made up your minds, or maybe even some of you who have made up your minds, to maybe consider and reconsider what it is that Bernie Sanders offers,” Belafonte said in a video announcing his endorsement of the independent senator from Vermont. “He offers us a chance to declare unequivocally that there is a group of citizens who have a deep caring for where our nation goes and what it does in the process of going.”
Belafonte’s endorsement is likely to resonate in showbiz circles, where he has been a strong voice for diversity and civil rights even as his activity has an entertainer has slowed in recent years. And the nod reinforces the surprising divide among industry Democrats between Sanders, the ultra-liberal who bills himself as a Democratic socialist, and Clinton, who had been expected to face little opposition in her quest for the Democratic presidential nomination.
Belafonte made headlines in 2014 with a fiery call for the entertainment industry to do more to foster diversity among its ranks. He made the remarks after receiving the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences’ Governors Award recognizing his long career as a singer, actor and activist.
Belafonte’s challenge to the industry has proved to be prescient after two consecutive years of a virtually all-white field of acting nominees in the Oscar race. The outrage this year forced AMPAS to undertake significant steps to change the composition of its membership over the next five years.