SIDNEY POITIER DIES

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Sir Milo Butler, Sir Sidney Poitier, Sir Lynden Pindling, Sir Kendal Isaacs on the day that the late actor received his knighthood from the Queen  in 1974 at Government House in Nassau. Photo by Lorenzo Lockhart Bahamas Information Services.

They say old soldiers never die; they just fade away.  Sidney Poitier did just that.  On the evening of Thursday 6 January 2022, he left us.  He died peacefully at his home in Beverly Hills, California.  He was 94 years old.

The death in the lap of luxury of Beverly Hills was in complete contrast to the circumstances of his birth. He was born way back in 1927 at the start of the last century.  His birth was an accident.  He was a premature birth to a woman who with her husband were farmers of tomatoes in one of the remotest parts of The Bahamas called Cat Island.  He survived in a shoe box as he told the story.  He became an icon to the world and to America and the first Black man to win an academy award back in 1964.  It would be decades before another Black man did so.

Sidney Poitier was an exemplar to his generation.  He started out with the film No Way Out.  Its racial message was denied by the then ruling class in The Bahamas and they sought to ban the showing of the film.  The Citizens Committee of then leading black men came together to reverse the ban.

He was an exemplar for Cat Island.  The now Prime Minister speaking at a dinner in Mr. Poitier’s honour in 2021 said that when Sidney Poitier won the Oscar in 1964, his own father went missing for a week because he was drinking and having a good time because Reg’s little brother had won the Oscar.

For the generation of Bahamian children born in the 1960s and 1950s, his was the obligatory film that they had to see.

He has not acted in any movie for at least 30 years.  But his reputation still loomed large over the film world.  When Denzel Washington won his Best Actor Award, he thanked Sidney Poitier for paving the way.

The Bahamas gave him its highest honour that of a knighthood from Her majesty the Queen in 1974.

Well, he is gone.  The Prime Minister Philip Davis broke into his schedule to pay tribute live on TV.  He ordered the flags to fly at half mast in the country until the funeral.  Sidney Poitier now belongs to the ages.