The death of Sidney Poitier signals the loss of another African American legend. His appearance in American films including, Lilies Of The Field, They Call Me Mr. Tibbs, A Raisin in the Sun, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, and other films, insured the integrity and manhood of African American men, leaving no question of their status as free men, men who loved their families and who rejected the status of “boy” and other racist and demeaning nicknames.
I recall the movie, where his character in Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in The Sun, he fought to buy his family a home. He had to overcome numerous obstacles but fought on. His movies taught Black males in America what it meant to be a family head and how to deal with the obstacles of life. Poitier was born in Florida but raised in the West Indies where he learned how to be a man. He returned to America later in life with his family and to pursue his acting career. Poitier is father to six daughters and is credited with giving numerous Black actors their first chance at stardom.
While living in New York, He raised money with Harry Belafonte for the Civil Rights Movement, specifically supporting the Right to Vote with Dr. Martin Luther King. Like Sidney, Civil Rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King made his career out of helping people make a better life for themselves. When I see a movie, a commercial, or a public service announcement and with Black people, I remember the days when we used to call out in the house, “There’s a Black person on television.” That was also a time when that Black people could not play quarterback on a football team. Now Black Quarterbacks and all other positions play on college and professional teams. The NFL and NBA is full of with Black players and winning all types of awards for their efforts. As we all know, Black people can do anything, if given a chance. This is especially true in sports where ability, not color is the proof of the talent required to win.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Sidney Poitier, Harry Belafonte, and a number of Civil Rights and entertainment giants have all paved the way for our progress. With mottoes like, “Each one teaches one,” and “If it is to be, it is up to me,” Black people have set examples, protested, and led the way toward progress. The results have been obvious.
This week we all celebrate the progress created by Sidney, opening doors in the movies and other productions. We also pause for the opportunity to honor Dr. King during the celebration of his birthday. The theme of “Each one, teach one” seems to be working with the examples set by these giants. While we are making progress, others are fighting to set us back to a time that they consider our place.
With their uprising on January 6, 2021, they could be quoting the philosopher Voltaire who said, “Anyone who can speak absurdities can perform atrocities.” With the years of deprivation and free labor of Black America, we must think of the deprivation and slavery as atrocities put upon us, but the work of giants like King and Poitier has granted us the progress we enjoy.