RASpect: Sidney Poitier

Greeting Mi Irieites,

Here’s another day to remember, ’cause today is the 50th anniversary when Sidney Poitier won best actor for the film, “Lilies of the Field.”

It was no easy road for actors of colour, like Sidney Poitier in Hollywood, so to be the first black actor to win an Oscar back in 1964 was an incredible feat in itself.

Sidney was born on February 20th, 1927 in Miami of Bahamian parents. In his early acting years there were drama institutions for “Negroes,” as the term was put in those days. But he was not too favourable by those who attended due to him being ‘tone deaf.” Being able to sing was a very important credential for black actors, therefore Sidney was immediately at a disadvantage, not to mention his mono tone Bahamian accent that he tried very hard to get rid of.

But more success snowballed his way. With the racial climate of segregation as it was in the USA, he was chosen to star in 3 films after receiving his Academy award: “To Sir with Love,” “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” and In the Heat of the Night. (1967).

Acting is not Sidney’s only forte. He went to direct many a great films; “Stir Crazy,” starring Richard Pryor and Gene Wilder, is one that I can immediately bring to mind. And come this August will be the 5th anniversary since he received his Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Obama.

May I mention, that in our little ghetto world back in the UK as well as the Caribbean, Sidney Poitier was our pride and joy. No matter how brief he appeared on TV, we would stop whatever we were doing to watch who we thought was representing us…”Gwarn cuz, go deh!”

Ride On Sidney, ride on!

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