By Penny Cooper
The first Black person to win a Best Actor Oscar, gave a string of ground-breaking performances on screen, that helped combat social prejudice.
Sidney Poitier, whose ground-breaking acting work in the 1950s and 1960s paved the way for generations of black film stars, highlighting social and racial issues of persons of colour.
Sidney who died aged 94, on 7 January 2022, has left a huge gap in the struggle for stardom by many actors of not only coloured skin but also young and aspiring actors.
Sidney arrived in Hollywood at the age of 22 when life for black people in the US was marred by violence, racial injustice, unequal opportunities, and an industry difficult to penetrate as a black person.
The academy bestows an honorary award on a member of the film industry whose input is gearing towards bettering the industry and the influence they have created in the industry and around the world.
The academy in 2002 honoured Sir Sidney Poitier with an Honorary Award for his role in all categories, an award which was universally appreciated and celebrated.
Receiving the award, he remarked, “I accept this award in memory of all African American actors and actresses who went before me in the difficult years, on whose shoulders I was privileged to stand to see where I might go.”
The Bahamas Deputy Prime Minister, Chester Cooper, said he was “conflicted with great sadness and a sense of celebration when I learned of the passing of Sir Sidney Poitier”. Tributes rolled in from Barack Obama, Denzel Washington, Halle Berry and many more.
The multiple Oscar Award winner Denzel Washington at the 74th Oscars in 2002 paid a special tribute to Sidney saying, “for forty years, I have been chasing Sidney…they finally give to me what they gave to him the same night…I will always be chasing you Sidney and following your footsteps because there is nothing, I would rather do Sir”.
Denzel recollected before Sidney, “African American actors had to take supporting roles in major studio films that were easy to cut out, but you couldn’t cut Sidney Poitier out of a Sidney Poitier picture.
He was the first solo above the title “African American Movie Star… he was unique.”
Peter Bradshaw described him as “a natural film star who quietly pioneered a revolution.” Sir Sidney performed in films such as: The Defiant One, Lilies of the Field and Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner.
A life to celebrate!
Check out Sidney Poitier on Youtube.com and see him receiving his Oscar.