From time to time, I’ve highlighted celebrities who’ve died on my blog. They were mainly celebrities that affected me in some way.
Today, I’m going to honor Sidney Poitier.
I know Betty White died prior to the New Year, and I do love her and her roles as Rose on Golden Girls and Sue Anne Nivens on The Mary Tyler Moore.
However, today, I want to talk about Sidney Poitier, and how his life really made a difference in the way black men were seen in America and around the world.
At some point in his life, Mr. Poitier wrote:
“History will pinpoint me as merely a minor element in an ongoing major event, a small if necessary energy, But I am nonetheless gratified at having been chosen.”
Firstly, I believe what Stanislavski said was true: “There are no small parts, only small actors.”
I also believe this is true in life. We all have a part to play, and each bit of our parts contribute to the whole.
When we do nothing, it’s what stops the momentum. It’s like Doing the Wave at a stadium…
If one section does nothing, the momentum is lost.
Mr. Poitier created a catalyst of momentum. First, he was the first Black man to win an Oscar.
He had a quiet, powerfulness about his performance, and the man was so handsome that my mom even commented on it to me one time when I was a young girl. (She loved him in “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner”…a movie about an interracial couple, and Poitier plays a doctor whose skin color tests the liberal-ness of his in-laws.)
Each movie, he was elegance and charm personified…
…even when he was angry “In the Heat of Night,” correcting a racist sheriff…
He started with nothing, moving to New York City with just $3 and change in his pocket. He washed dishes and had other manual labor jobs and saved his nickels so that on really cold nights, he could sleep in pay toilets. He flopped his first audition, but that didn’t deter him. He finally won a place in an African American theater’s acting school, where he had to work as a janitor, without pay.
He took part in the 1963 March on Washington and he was a life-long outspoken advocate for racial justice and the civil rights movement. However, I believe that his legacy is in the roles he portrayed and the perception of millions he shifted.
In one of his memoirs, he wrote:
“As for my part in all this, all I can say is that there’s a place for people who are angry and defiant, and sometimes they serve a purpose, but that’s never been my role…I felt very much as if I were representing 15, 18 million people with every movie I made.”
In a 1967 interview, he said:
“If the fabric of the society were different, I would scream to high heavens to play villains and to deal with different images of Negro life that would be more dimensional. But I’ll be damned if I do that at this stage of the game.”
He played the roles he did, so that others could play villains or other roles that are multi-dimensional characters.
In that same interview, he said:
“It’s a choice, a clear choice.”
Although he may not have had the ability to always choose the roles he played, he did have a choice in how he acted and what he chose to do with what he was given. He also chose not to give up, when he was cold, poor and when others did not see him as “talented.” He chose to keep going and that’s also why he’s an inspiration to me.
No matter what our life circumstances are, we can choose to wallow in it and complain and question the “fairness” of life or to do something about it and keep trying…keep working…keep choosing to uplift ourselves and those around us. I choose the latter. Thank you Sidney Poitier.
With so much Love & Gratitude,