BROOKLYN |  Every year the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) hosts a tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. It is a free community event, this year held Monday, January 21 at 10:30am in the BAM Howard Gilman Opera House.

What’s special about this year is that the tribute will feature a keynote address by the incomparable Harry Belafonte. He was a personal friend of the late Dr. King.

Belafonte met a young Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on his historic visit to New York in the 1950s. From that day until the leader’s assassination, Belafonte and King developed a deep friendship that for Belafonte still stands as one of the most precious of his experiences.

In 1968 Johnny Carson stunned the entertainment world by inviting a black man to fill in for him. For a full week in February Harry Belafonte hosted the “Tonight Show,” showcasing numerous other black celebrities—not least, his friend and fellow civil-rights advocate Dr. King, Jr. After relaxing the audience with a joke, Dr. King discussed serious public and personal matters. When Belafonte asked if he feared for his life, he responded “If something happens to me, maybe something good will come of it.” He was assassinated two months later.

Master of ceremonies of the BAM event is Deputy Brooklyn Borough President Sandra Chapman. There will also be music performances by the Brooklyn Interdenominational Choir and Kindred The Family Soul. The weekend will also include “Black Rock Coalition Orchestra Salutes Richie Havens” at BAMcafé Live, featuring Stew and an art exhibition also in the BAMcafé entitled “Picture the Dream.”

This is New York City’s largest public celebration in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Dr, Martin Luther King Jr. and Harry Belafonte