Sidney Poitier: There Will Be No Other

There will be no other.

Sidney Poitier, "paved the way for Black actors in film," but it is all too apparent he paved the way for ALL actors and helped shaped a humanity that without him, may still be longing for such a changemaker and pathfinder.

Poitier was the first Black performer to win the Oscar for best actor for “Lilies of the Field,” and is well known for saying he felt “as if I were representing 15, 18 million people with every move I made.”

I believe with all my heart that Mr. Poitier was as crucial in the odyssey of freedom and equality for Black Americans — for personhood — as Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman, as Martin Luther King Jr. A clear descendant of Douglass’s rhetorical brilliance, he spoke the words of white people but from his own mouth. His projected image begot what is now a galaxy of other Black actors.
- Wesley Morris, The New York Times

Sidney Poitier, born in 1927 in Miami and grew up in the Bahamas, rose to distinction at the outset of the civil rights movement and his parts portrayed the peaceful integrationist goals of the movement.

“It’s a choice, a clear choice,” Poitier was quoted in 1967 as saying about his early roles. “If the fabric of the society were different, I would scream to high heaven 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.”

While Mr. Poitier railed against being defined by race it goes without saying that many of his most beloved performances advanced "the depiction of Black actors and pushed audiences to confront racial tensions in America."

"It's been an enormous responsibility," Poitier once told Oprah Winfrey. "And I accepted it, and I lived in a way that showed how I respected that responsibility. I had to. In order for others to come behind me, there were certain things I had to do."

Poitier will be missed not just for his inexplicable talent but for his activism and for changing a game that he decided he could and must play.

Said Denzel Washington upon winning only the second best actor Oscar award for a Black actor 37 years after Poitier, “I’ll always be chasing you, Sidney. I’ll always be following in your footsteps. There’s nothing I would rather do, sir."

There will be no other. Never before and never again.

To learn more about Mr. Poitier watch Hollywood Remembers - Sidney Poitier.

Watch the sequel to Lilies, Christmas Lilies of the Field starring Billy Dee Williams in the seminal role.

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