ESTHER ADLER: This drawing is of the Queen of Gospel, Mahalia Jackson:
HARRY BELAFONTE: Mahalia was for me the greatest expression of the celebration of Black Liberation. The songs that she sang, what happened to her entire being when she let loose with one of those things.
She welcomes you with her art. She seduces you into her space. Then she sings the songs of pain and sorrow. The sheer joy of hearing her and the enormity of her gift was only a part of it—it was the content. Charlie and I went to a lot of her concerts and reveled in who she was.
I was at the threshold of my own career-building at the time and had a little jingle, and some money to spread around. Even when we didn't have enough money to spread around, we spread it around. I commissioned him to make it. Because my relationship with Charlie was more than—I was not just an acquaintance. Our survival was dependent on one another. We took dinner together. When we got a buck to do something, we went and did it together. We nourished each other is the way to put it.