One night after receiving Berklee Col­lege of Music’s hon­orary doctor of music degree, song­writer and activist Harry Bela­fonte received the Museum of African Amer­ican History’s Living Legend Award at the Four Season’s Hotel Friday night. The gala honors con­tem­po­rary leaders who have fol­lowed in the foot­steps of renowned civil rights pio­neers like Fred­erick Dou­glass and William Lloyd Gar­rison, who’s great grand­chil­dren, Frank and Edith Gar­rison, were there to cel­e­brate. Belafonte’s con­tri­bu­tions to the civil rights move­ment through music and social activism earned him the award, which he received along­side former Mayor Thomas Menino and Mar­garet A. Burnam, the first African-​​American woman to serve in the Mass­a­chu­setts judi­ciary. “As a high school dropout, for me to be around these incred­ible humans — I am unable to describe how this for­tune came my way,” Bela­fonte said. He said his pas­sion for activism came from his mentor, musician-​​actor-​​activist Paul Robeson. “Paul once said, ‘artists are the gate­keepers of truth, and art is the rad­ical voice of civ­i­liza­tion,’ ” said Bela­fonte, accepting his award. Bela­fonte announced during the event that he’s been appointed to the board of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Amer­ican His­tory and Cul­ture in Wash­ington, D.C., which is expected to finish con­struc­tion in 2015.

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