My Absolutely Charming Encounter With Harry Belafonte

Signed copy of Harry Belafonte’s “My Song”

Having one’s heart heavily set on meeting the most dynamic and ground breaking African American actor, humanitarian, civil rights revolutionary, and political activist in history is hard to bear when that hope is dashed in mere seconds.

Arriving to the original Busboys & Poets in Washington, D.C. a little over thirty minutes before Harry Belafonte’s appearance proved pointless and frankly, dumb. Plans to get there over an hour prior with one of my gal pals crashed and burned with a last-mintue arts and crafts run to Michael’s (I’m making a jewelry box for one of my mentee’s Christmas gifts).

The line outside the esteemed restaurant slash cultural hub was more than 100-plus individuals long. Couple that with a blustery overcast, forty-three degree temperature, and an already packed establishment, Dominique, I and another friend who was circling for a parking space quickly bailed on the idea of hearing Harry Belafonte’s sage wisdom up close and personal.

Dominique and I retired our plans directly across the street to Eatonville (also owned by Busboys’ founder Andy Shallal) in an effort to eat, drown our disappointments in a fancy libation mix, wait until Belafonte’s talk was over and at least try to get our books signed. Luckily, we were smart enough to purchase copies of My Song: A Memoir at Busboys the day prior.

This is when fate decided to enter into the picture and take pity on us. Crap. Perhaps it was a Christmas miracle. 

Upon being granted instant seating, my gal pal quickly declined two table options that were offered to us – one was too tight and the other too close to the front door.

The hostess then graciously gave us a table on the opposite end of the restaurant and near its open kitchen. Thankfully, my friend was pleased. Feeling so dejected about missing the event, I, honestly, was fine with the first table we were offered.

Well, shame on me for not being the picky diner, because mere moments after she drops her bag at our table and heads to bathroom, Harry Belafonte walks by Dominique’s chair on his way back from the bathroom.

After sitting in shock for a few seconds, gripping the table to the point of almost getting splinters and crying inside for Dominique to return quickly, I thought that this might be our one and only chance to meet him and get our books signed.

Dominique returns, I tell her Belafonte is about four tables to our right and we decide to catch him at the door before he and his entourage walked across the street for the event.

About eight minutes passed before we made our move to the door. Belafonte enters the doorway with the help of his son, smiles at us, says hi, sees my book and happily signs my copy, along with Dominique’s. We must have repeated “thank you, Mr. Belafonte” at least six times.

Next comes the most charming thing to happen to me in my lifetime. Before departing, Belafonte gives me a long and slow look over, looks directly into my eyes and says “I love the hair”. 

I gasped, smiled uncontrollably, covered my mouth and blushed. Any chance of me EVER changing my current hairstyle died today. 

P.S. If you don’t know Harry Belafonte’s story, haven’t purchased his book yet, but subscribe to HBO, please try to watch “Sing Your Song”. It’s a really great cinematic look at his life, work and passions. 

Harry Belafonte’s “My Song”