Gina Belafonte is someone who walks the walk and talks the talk. 

As the executive director of Sankofa, she’s combining the arts and activism to carry on her father’s legacy.

Though initially starting out as an actress, Gina Belafonte is now focusing her efforts on the organization her father started and choosing to focus her efforts on larger social justice causes.

But that doesn’t mean she doesn’t use entertainment to get her point across.

On March 1, HB95 — a celebration of Harry Belafonte’s 95th birthday — will be a star-studded event that will take place at the Town Hall Theater in New York City. Proceeds will benefit Sankofa, whose mission “educates, motivates, and activates artists and allies in service of grassroots movements and equitable change,” per the organization’s official website. 

Their outreach is, of course, grassroots in nature — they work with local partners to amplify their message, but their amplification involves some of the biggest names in the entertainment industry today. For example, confirmed guests at the HB95 event include Aloe Blacc, Alicia Keys, Spike Lee, John Legend, Laurence Fishburne, Doug E Fresh, Danny Glover, Bill T Jones, Amy Goodman, Lenny Kravitz, Michael Moore, Q-Tip, Tim Robbins, Rev. Al Sharpton, Bryan Stevenson, Sweet Honey in the Rock, Jesse Williams, and Alfre Woodward.

“Artists are the gatekeepers of truth, civilization’s radical voice,” Gina Belafonte said in a statement about the upcoming event.

AfroTech recently had a chance to sit down with Gina to talk about her father’s legacy and Sankofa’s mission.

Editorial note: Portions of this interview have been edited and condensed for clarity.

On Harry Belafonte's Legacy

Courtesy of Gina Belefonte

“My father always said that he was an activist before he was an artist. He was someone who observed his own family’s struggles and hardships, and I think he carried those experiences throughout his life. He was involved in both civil rights and humanitarian causes, and that’s something Sankofa strives to achieve as well.”

On Sankofa's Unique Partnership With The Arts

“At Sankofa, our goal is not penalization, but reintegration into the community. There are very few programs like the one we have at Sankofa. Without art, we have nothing. uses the arts as a tool to engage people into action.”

On The Importance of Staying Focused

“In order to really effectuate positive change, we need to be careful not to hop on trends. Whatever gains popularity will, of course, become trendy. But trendy also means that, sometimes, shock value is created, and the messaging is lost. We at Sankofa come from a more heartfelt space, a more authentic space, and a more consistent space. Our goal is to nurture understanding, not reinforce stereotypes or create hype.”