By Dan Klepal
The Cincinnati Enquirer
Harry Belafonte's voice helped him become a pop singing icon and a movie star. On Saturday, the 76-year-old actor, crooner and political activist used his still-strong and silky voice at First Lutheran Church in Over-the-Rhine to urge people to empower themselves by voting.
Belafonte was the main speaker at a workshop to teach people about public policy, register them to vote and help them with community organizing. It is the first of a series of workshops that will be held in Ohio aimed at encouraging poor communities to participate in the debate leading up to the 2004 presidential election.
"I'm responding to the outreach by citizens in this community to help them achieve their hopes and desire of getting out from under the oppressive condition of poverty," Belafonte said. "I have heard the voices from Over-the-Rhine, and they are making the commitment to do what must be done to change the way business is conducted here."
ELECTION GUIDE 2003
Cincinnati.com provides an early look at the Nov. 4 vote with help on getting you registered, lists of area candidates and the latest campaign news. And there's more to come, including candidate profiles - as we get closer to Election Day.
Belafonte is a board member of the Washington, D.C., think-tank, Institute for Policy Studies, which is sponsoring the workshops. IPS fellow Sanho Tree said IPS does not endorse individual politicians or political parties, but instead tries to encourage political debate on topics important to individual neighborhoods and cities.
"Citizenship doesn't come with an owner's manual," Tree said. "When people don't have hope, you've got problems. And there are a lot of people in this neighborhood for whom tomorrow is not going to be a better day.
Lillian Smith, 63, of Avondale said she left Saturday with a renewed sense of hope: "There is concern and unity. We have to pick each other up and work with each other to solve these problems."
Belafonte said getting residents in Cincinnati's poor neighborhoods to the polls is the only way the city will solve its problems of poverty, drug abuse and substandard education.
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