Episode 43: Artivist Maven Gina Belafonte

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Episode 43 of the Mavens Do It Better Podcast features Gina Belafonte, artist, producer, artivist and executive director of Sankofa.org. Sankofa.org is an organization in service of artists and grassroots movements and equitable change in the world using art and culture as a healing opportunity to express fear, anger, and frustration, empowering people and organizations to find non-violent ways for response and for everyone to have a whole human experience in our lives. 

Gina and Heather caught up virtually in Los Angeles, CA. 

 

Listen in as Gina and Heather talk about: 

  • Being an artivist at the intersection of art and activism to open hearts and minds using art as a tool to communicate thoughts and ideas.  

  • How as the executive director of Sankofa.org, an organization founded by her Father, Harry Belafonte, they educate, motivate, and activate artists and allies, supporting grassroots movements and equitable change by developing cultural content in partnership with community partners. Sanokfa.org started five years ago, activating fully after the Trayvon Martin murder and verdict along with many other organizations like Black Lives Matter, Movement 4 Black Lives, The Justice League. 

  • Growing up with two parents, Harry and Julie Belafonte, who were and are today, deeply rooted in the Civil Rights Movement having the likes of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Shirley Chisolm and others around her kitchen table inspiring, shaping, and developing her artivist roots and way she moves in the world. 

  • A discussion of many social justice issues and organizations that are making a change in the world, looking at how we are only as good in our society as the most marginalized citizens. And a look into how movements are built, strategized and the responsibility we have as human beings being beneficiaries of the legacy and work of those that came before us.  

  • How one dinner with her friend Stacy Lynch, daughter of East Coast political strategist, Bill Lynch, became more dinners and has developed into a group of women, working, dreaming, and activating together. The group includes: Gina Belafonte, daughter of Julie and Harry Belafonte; Suzanne Kay, daughter of Diahann Carroll; Stacy Lynch, daughter of Bill Lynch; Dr. Hasna Muhammad, daughter of Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee; Ilyasah Shabazz, daughter of Malcolm X and Dr. Betty Shabazz; Dominique Sharpton, daughter of Reverend Al Sharpton; and Keisha Sutton-James, granddaughter of Percy Sutton. The daughters explore how their shared memories growing up watching their parents at work overlap and intertwine, as did the lives of their parents—activists, artists, politicians, political strategists, religious leaders, and founders of the civil rights movement. The group is calling themselves Daughters of the Movement, taking their stories to a broader audience through panel discussions, speaker series and an upcoming new podcast. 

To follow Gina Belafonte:  LinkedIn | Instagram | Twitter 

Gina Belafonte

Born and raised in New York City, Gina Belafonte has spent her life in the arenas of entertainment and activism where her professional work thrives today. As the youngest child of Julie and Harry Belafonte, whose impact in these fields is among the most influential and progressive in the world, Gina’s passions come as no surprise. Gina was the lead producer on the internationally acclaimed documentary film, SING YOUR SONG, exploring the extraordinary life and legacy of Harry Belafonte that was selected as the opening film for the Sundance Film Festival in 2011. 

After many years working as actress in NYC, with several off broadway and touring companies like The National Shakespeare Company and The Mirror Reparatory Company in NYC, under the Artistic Direction of John Strasberg, alongside greats such as Geraldine Page, F. Murray Abraham, Anne Jackson and Elisabeth Franz, a series of opportunities to work in film and television moved her to Hollywood, where she appeared in several guest-starring roles, and landed a television series called THE COMMISH. After two formative years on screen with the series, her lifelong passion for stage production ultimately led her to produce theater in Los Angeles. Gina’s technical expertise and insight into the world of film and television production were developed while working with Paula Weinstein and Barry Levinson at Baltimore Spring Creek/Warner Brothers. 

After becoming a mother, Gina followed her early childhood environment by immersing herself in activism. Collaborating with leading gang interventionist, Bo Taylor, Gina developed a deeper understanding of gang culture by working in the California prison system and co-founded a non-profit organization called The Gathering For Justice. This multi-cultural, multi-generational organization focuses on youth incarceration and the criminalization of poverty. She currently sits on the Board of 2nd Call a community-based organization designed to save lives, by reducing violence and assisting in the personal development of high-risk individuals, proven offenders, ex-felons, parolees and others who society disregards and the internationally acclaimed Actors Gang Theatre founded by Tim Robbins. 

After dedicating over a decade to addressing gang intervention and incarceration, Gina traveled around the world with her father to bring together two inspiring generations of art and activism with the critically acclaimed HBO film SING YOUR SONG. 

Today, Gina lives in LA and New York and is working with diverse artists, activists, and organizations worldwide to promote cultural and civic engagement in the 21st century. Ms. Belafonte is currently involved in many artistic ventures, such as producing a documentary film titled Another Night In The Free World that explores the lives of three young women activists, their struggles and challenges and the difference they are making in the world, developing alongside her father with Martin Scorsese on a television mini-series about the colonization of the Congo by King Leopold the 2nd, and the staged version of the Grammy nominated 6 CD box set anthology of black music The Long Road To Freedom. She and her father are the executive producers of Lyrics from Lockdown - a hip-hop theater, multimedia production addressing the impact of wrongful imprisonment and mass incarceration. Driven by her passion for the arts and activism, Gina reflects: "After we finished Sing Your Song, I knew then as long as my dad had an idea, I would do whatever I could to help bring those ideas to fruition, continue the best of my elders’ traditions, and preserve our family’s legacy." 

Organizations

Sankofa.org: Founded by Harry Belafonte, Sankofa.org educates, motivates, and activates artists and allies in service of grassroots movements and equitable change. Sankofa.org is fiscally sponsored by the New World Foundation, a 501c3 public charity. Sankofa.org addresses injustice and creates change at multiple levels. In support of our grassroots partners, Sankofa. Org enlists artists, performers, and prominent individuals to deliver messages of moral and political consequence. We stage a wide range of events to amplify our message further and elevate the voices of those already doing this critical work. Additionally, we employ online and offline media to increase the awareness and spirit of activism. Money raised by Sankofa.org is re-granted to our coalition partners working on the ground for lasting change and towards building a self-sustaining endowment to continue our work. 

To connect with Sankofa: Website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter 

Daughters of the Movement: We are legacy holders. A group of women who sat at the feet of those who were on the front lines of the civil rights movement. We carry the oral history, cultural values, and wisdom passed down to us by some of the revolutionary leaders who turned the tide of American history. We are the Daughters of the Movement. This unique sisterhood is a podcast and a speaker series with a target audience of women of all ages and advocates for social justice. Through the lens of living in the Movement, we take deep dives into critical and controversial topics. Lessons From the Daughters of the Civil Rights Movement, Elle Magazine, by Brea Baker. 

To connect with Daughters of the Movement: Facebook   

2ndcall.org: 2nd Call is a community-based organization designed to save lives by reducing violence and assisting in the personal development of high-risk individuals, proven offenders, ex-felons, parolees and others who society disregards. 

To connect with 2ndcall.org: Website | Facebook | Twitter 

For Freedoms: Where Do We Go From Here?:  A visual art exhibit curated by Ava Hess, in collaboration with For Freedoms, that explores the role of art and visual representation in American civic life. The exhibition features a series of photographs that re-envision American artist Norman Rockwell’s paintings of the "Four Freedoms" articulated by Franklin D. Roosevelt in his 1941 State of the Union Address. 

Heather Newman

Heather Newman is an award-winning marketing maven, technology entrepreneur and an epic connector that brings many worlds together. She has extensive experience marketing products and services for Enterprise businesses, startups and emerging markets. Heather builds plans and processes that are nimble, human and different. She is an adept storyteller and is passionate about growth for both employees and the corporate bottom-line. Heather hails from the arts and the bulk of her career has been working with the largest technology companies in the world (Microsoft, Google, Amazon, NetApp, Hewlett Packard, and Dell). Her nineteen years of experience working at technology companies and building global high-tech marketing strategy has driven millions of dollars of revenue and multiple award-winning campaigns. She has led global marketing teams for many technology companies including AvePoint, IT Unity & KnowledgeLake. Heather was a part of the original Microsoft SharePoint Marketing team. During her tenure, she helped launch multiple versions of the product, build the SharePoint Partner Ecosystem and conceived of and produced the first three Microsoft SharePoint Conferences. Creative Maven has produced thousands of global marketing campaigns and events. Currently CM is focusing on go to market strategies for Microsoft and its partners as well as a new site sister site launching in 2015 called Marketingfixer.com. Heather also serves as Co-Founder and Chief Marketing Officer of Content Panda, an innovative technology startup looking to actively disrupt how content is delivered inside software.