Harry Belafonte Brings You: Woodstock for Social Justice Warriors

By Emily Zanotti | 5:09 pm, October 5, 2016

In case you were wondering where your local Internet feminists and campus activists disappeared to last weekend, it’s possible they may have been at Harry Belafonte’s “Many Rivers to Cross.” The music-and-arts festival just outside of Atlanta is a three-day performance-driven event just for social justice warriors, apparently named for the famous album from Belafonte’s contemporary, Jimmy Cliff.

Billed as “Woodstock for social justice warriors,” the festival featured performances by “socially aware” artists like Common, the Dave Matthews Band, Carlos Santana and Macklemore in an effort to “elevate the issues of the disenfranchised.” Performers were called to “leverage their music and art to unite people around issues of social justice and human rights.”

It also featured a “social justice village” of 4o non-profits dedicated to making the world a better and more tolerant place (as well as, apparently, several law firms).

And all attendees were encouraged to visit the “Healing Justice Tent,” where experienced practitioners taught the arts of “self-care, healing, and mind and body therapy to the downtrodden and oppressed.

Tickets for the event started at $60, but went all the way up to $350 for the VIP experience, which gave pass-holders the opportunity to enjoy the social justice festival without having to mix with the proletariat. Festival organizers rationalize the cost by noting that you can spend your money anywhere, so you may as well spend it on “doing good.”

Given the attendance, though, it seems that VIP pass-holders might have overpaid for their decidedly non-socialist privileges.

Response to the festival has been mixed. Social justice warriors, it turns out, don’t party like they did in 1970s anymore, and attendees appear to have been treated to far more “discussion circles” and “town halls” than mind-bending rock performances.

Nothing says “Woodstock” like “panel discussions!”

It’s hard to believe the music festival flew almost entirely under the radar.

Belafonte himself closed out the concert on Saturday evening, treating eager fans to an extended lecture on the ills of modern society and the benefits of a social revolution that leads to drastic change. Strangely, Belafonte did not mention that his ideal country, Venezuela, is currently suffering through one of the single largest man-made humanitarian disasters in history, thanks, in large part, to the lasting legacy of one of Belafonte’s good friends, the erstwhile Hugo Chavez.

Organizers are looking forward to growing the festival next year, and say they will continue to “gather artists, celebrities, thought leaders, activists, organizations and citizens from across the country to exchange ideas and solutions to advance civil and human rights for all!”