Caribbean News, Latin America News:
By NAN News Editor
News Americas, NEW YORK, NY, Fri. Jan. 7, 2022: One of the most famous Caribbean American actors, Academy award winning actor, film director, activist, and ambassador, Sir Sidney Poitier, is no more. He died in the Caribbean island of his parents birth, The Bahamas, on Thursday at age 94.
Poitier who was born in Miami to parents from Cat Island, Bahamas, become the trailblazing actor whose commanding talent and immense charm helped him shatter racial barriers in Hollywood and paved the way for generations of Black talent.
His death was announced by Bahamas Prime Minister Philip Davis, who said in an address that his country was mourning the cultural icon who once served as an ambassador of the Bahamas.
“We admire the man, not just because of his colossal achievements,” Davis said, “but also because of who he was, his strength of character, his willingness to stand up and be counted, and the way he plotted and navigated his life’s journey.”
FLASHBACK – (L-R) Inspirational Lifetime Achievement Award Recipient, Caribbean American Sir Sidney Poitier, speaking onstage as Actor Denzel Washington looks on at the 2016 Carousel Of Hope Ball at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on October 8, 2016 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Earl Gibson III/WireImage)
Sidney L. Poitier was the youngest of seven children, born to Evelyn (née Outten) and Reginald James Poitier, Bahamian farmers who owned a farm on Cat Island. The family would travel to Miami to sell tomatoes and other produce. Reginald also worked as a cab driver in Nassau, Bahamas. Poitier was born unexpectedly in Miami while his parents were visiting. His birth was two months premature, and he was not expected to survive, but his parents remained in Miami for three months to nurse him to health. Poitier grew up in the Bahamas, then a British Crown colony. Owing to his unplanned birth in the United States, he was automatically entitled to U.S. citizenship.
Poitier’s uncle believed that the Poitier ancestors on his father’s side had migrated from Haiti, and were probably among the runaway slaves who established maroon communities throughout the Bahamas, including Cat Island. He noted that Poitier is a French name, and that there were no White Poitiers from the Bahamas.
However, there had been a White Poitier on Cat Island; the name came from planter Charles Leonard Poitier, who had immigrated from Jamaica in the early 1800s. In 1834, his wife’s estate on Cat Island had 86 slaves, who kept the name Poitier, a name that had been introduced into the Anglosphere since the Norman conquest in the 11th century.
Poitier lived with his family on Cat Island until he was 10, when they moved to Nassau. There he was exposed to the modern world, where he saw his first automobile, first experienced electricity, plumbing, refrigeration, and motion pictures. He was raised Catholic but later became an agnostic with views closer to deism.
At age 15, he was sent to Miami to live with his brother’s large family. At 16, he moved to New York City and held a string of jobs as a dishwasher. A waiter sat with him every night for several weeks helping him learn to read the newspaper. During World War II, in November 1943, he lied about his age and enlisted in the Army. He was assigned to a Veteran’s Administration hospital in Northport, New York, and was trained to work with psychiatric patients. Poitier became upset with how the hospital treated its patients and feigned mental illness to obtain a discharge. Poitier confessed to a psychiatrist that he was faking his condition, but the doctor was sympathetic and granted his discharge under Section VIII of Army regulation 615-360 in December 1944.
After leaving the Army, he worked as a dishwasher until a successful audition landed him a role in an American Negro Theater production and never looked back.
Pointier’s most celebrated performances were as a wandering and wry ex-soldier helping a group of nuns build a chapel in Lilies of the Field; the patient yet stern teacher to an unruly London high school class in To Sir, With Love; a cerebral detective battling racism and crime in the Deep South in In the Heat of the Night
Pointier was the first Black actor to win the Academy Award for Best Actor for Lilies of the Field (1963). He also received a Grammy Award, two Golden Globe Awards and a British Academy Film Award.
He received numerous honors during his lifetime. In 2009, Poitier was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom from Barack Obama.
“It’s been said that Sidney Poitier does not make movies, he makes milestones —milestones of artistic excellence, milestones of America’s progress,” said former president Barack Obama in honoring the actor with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009 — some 42 years after Poitier’s character in Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner dreamed of his biracial children one day growing up to be president.
In 2001 he received a lifetime achievement award from the Academy Honorary Award for his achievement in film. In 2016 he received the BAFTA Fellowship.
In 1995, Poitier received the Kennedy Center Honor and in 1992, Poitier received the AFI Life Achievement Award. In 1994, Poitier received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
He was also awarded as Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II in 1974.