Harry Belafonte Questions Timing Of Nate Parker Rape Trial: “What Are We Doing Here?”

Legendary actor Harry Belafonte has questioned the timing of Nate Parker’s 1999 rape case, resurfacing just a few months before the release of his highly anticipated film, Birth of a Nation. 

READ Nate Parker Speaks Out, Says He Just Learned Of Victim’s Suicide

According to The Hollywood ReporterBelafonte admitted he didn’t know all the details of the case which left Parker not guilty of raping a fellow Penn State classmate. The story was public knowledge since the start of the 36-year-old’s career but gained extra traction just before the film’s upcoming press tour. The anonymous victim committed suicide in 2012, with her family claiming she was traumatized behind the incident. Belafonte, 89, says the case was reviewed in a court of law and wondered why critics would investigate the incident just before the release of the Nate Turner rebellion drama.

“It’s interesting because it’s coming out the same time the film’s coming out. Of all the stories you can tell, why are you telling this story? And if he was somebody who had committed a crime and got away with it, but he faced the justice system,” said Belafonte.”The fact that [the system] may have screwed up, the fact that it didn’t really take care of justice, the fact that he should have been punished or whatever, is history,” the singer added. “The fact is that he was confronted and then he did go through the process. Why are you bringing this up now? What has he done that requires this kind of animus?”

At the time of the case, Parker was a wrestler at Penn State. His roommate and co-writer of The Birth of a Nation Jean Celestin were both charged with the raping the student. They both claimed the sex was consensual and Parker was acquitted of the charge. Celestin’s charge was later exonerated over alleged mishandles by his trial attorney, The Daily Beast reports.

Calling the film a winner, Belafonte says Birth of a Nation will touch the souls of the audience. He also wondered of other actors and directors will face the same fate of their pasts returning during career highs.

“How do I put it in a perspective that helps me with greater clarity understand why this is the consequence of something he’s done by getting this high-profile, ’cause this film is touching a lot of consciousness. Why isn’t that the story?” Belafonte asked.”And is this going to be the price that young black women and men pay for making films of substance?” he continued. “Are they going to dig in and get dirt instead of fruit? What are we doing here? And where is the voice that defends him if he in fact is worthy of defending?”

Parker has spoken about case and says he was unaware of the victim’s passing. Several of the victim’s family members have also questioned the timing of the news. “We appreciate that after all this time, these men are being held accountable for their actions. However, we are dubious of the underlying motivations that bring this to present light after 17 years, and we will not take part in stoking its coals,” the statement to The New York Times reads. “While we cannot protect the victim from this media storm, we can do our best to protect her son. For that reason, we ask for privacy for our family and do not wish to comment further.”

READ AFI Cancels ‘Birth Of A Nation’ Screening Amid Nate Parker Rape Scandal