All Harry Belafonte had to do was utter a few words in his lush, hoarse baritone, and the female cries spiraled through the District City Council chambers. Belafonte paused, looked out at the crowded reception where the women outnumbered the men three to one, appeared slightly self-conscious and continued.
Speaking of "the soul of this nation," he said somberly, "I feel terribly uneasy about what happened to Andrew Young . . . it's safe to say this country has done itself a great injury not having Andrew Young at the helm of the United Nations."
Belafonte, the 52-year-old singer and political activist, was holding forth at the District building at the invitation of his old friend, Mayor Marion Barry, for TransAfrica. Tonight at Constitution Hall, Belafonte is giving a concert for the African and Caribbean lobbying group.
The collective impact of Belafonte, Barry and Randall Robinson, the executive director of TransAfrica -- all tall handsome men along with Eartha Kitt and Julie Belafonte had attracted 500 people to the wine and cheese reception.
The importance of a visible lobby such as TransAfrica, said Belafonte, who is vice chairman of the group's board, has increased in the last week. "If TransAfrica is successful in its task, there's a lot black people can do to turn this nation around . . . we must build and carry forth a platform of influence so they can't get away with the mischief they would like to continue to perpetuate in southern Africa and in the West Indies."
After Belafonte's remarks, Mayor Barry found himself holding cameras as people posed with the celebrity.Watching all the Teofilo Acosta, of the Cuban Interest Section, observed, "Belafonte has worldwide appeal. Even before the revolution he was extremely popular in Cuba. Now he is even more popular because he's friends with Castro."
As the guests reluctantly moved out of the chambers, Thelma Rutherford, the silver-haired senior-citizen activist, put her hand on Randall Robinson's arm and whispered, "I'm glad you brought him." Looking back at Belafonte, she had stars in her eyes.