Monday, January 25, 2021

‘The Sit-In’: The Untold Story of Harry Belafonte Hosting ‘The Tonight Show’ Circa 1968

*EURweb sat down with executive producer, Joy Reid and director of “The Sit-In,” Yoruba Richen, to discuss the untold Hollywood story of Harry Belafonte making history… a widely unknown and unprecedented story of a very popular black entertainer, sitting in for Johnny Carson, as host of “The Tonight Show” circa 1968, within the heights of the Civil Rights movement.

The Sit-In: Harry Belafonte Hosts the Tonight Show” – premieres Thursday, Sept. 10

From executive producer and MSNBC host Joy Reid and director Yoruba Richen, this is a documentary film that chronicles the seminal event and almost-forgotten moment in American history during which legendary entertainer and civil rights activist Harry Belafonte hosted the iconic “Tonight Show” in place of Johnny Carson for an entire week.

Belafonte appears in the film, along with Questlove and Whoopi Goldberg who recount the historic moment.

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Yoruba Richen is a talent to watch.  The accolades are vast and long. She has also won the Creative Promise Award at Tribeca All Access and was a Sundance Producers Fellow. She is a featured TED Speaker, a Fulbright fellow, a Guggenheim fellow and a 2016 recipient of the Chicken & Egg Breakthrough Filmmaker Award. Yoruba was chosen for the Root 100s list of African Americans 45 years old and younger who are responsible for the year’s most significant moments and themes. She is also the Founding Director of the Documentary Program at the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY. Her next project is the Breonna Taylor story.  She is speaking and documenting black voices and we definitely need more of that.

“When I started this film, I thought that I was telling the story of Harry Belafonte’s historic achievement as the first African American to host a full week of late night television,” director Yoruba Richen said in a statement. “I soon discovered the film was not only about this week during a politically volatile time in U.S history but also a journey through Harry’s incredible career, political activism and enduring influence. I discovered how relevant it is to today when we are in a time of political crisis, much like 1968, the year Harry hosted the show.”

Joy Reid, talked exclusively to EURweb about the importance of this documentary and why she wanted to be a part of it.

We are living in a time where there are still little to no people of color anchoring late night shows.”  Why is that? If we had a glimpse of Harry Belafonte in the 1960’s, Arsenio Hall in the 1980’s and now Trevor Noah…why is that it?  Joy Reid is herself, also a pioneer.

Now anchoring her own MSNBC evening show, “The ReidOut,”  she features one-on-one conversations with politicians and newsmakers and covers the political issues of the day, drawing from her extensive experience covering the intersection of race, justice and culture. Reid is one of NBCUniversal’s  most prominent Black on-air personalities and she is a force to be reckoned with.  She is reporting from a diverse perspective and leading the dialogue on important issues to her community and the country as a whole.

Harry Belafonte-peacock

“The Sit-In” is a story that will make you wonder why you did not know the richness of the history of talk shows, it will make you wonder why there are not more people of color and women in that space and it will remind you of the beauty, strength and power of the people.

Look out for special appearances/rare footage of Sidney Poitier, Lena Horne, Bobby Kennedy, The Smothers Brothers and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. This documentary is a must see and you can stream it September 10, 2020 on NBCUniversal’s new streaming platform Peacock TV

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