Ms. Anika Poitier
There is an endless list of things I will miss as we start to traverse this unfamiliar region of life without my father. The memories that have the most significance for me are not the more famous or famously iconic ones, but rather the more intimate or intimate recollections. Hugging him in his cashmere sweaters and listening to him mull over the cosmos will be missed. His smile, laughing, and ridiculous sense of humour will be missed. I have so many pictures of my family laughing together, the contagious kind of laughter that just won’t stop until we’re crying.
I shall miss seeing his boundless kindness firsthand. I was frequently moved by how freely he gave his full attention and sincere concern to each and every person he encountered. He was always as kind to a complete stranger as he was to an old friend. I shall miss having him there to support me through the challenges life often throws our way. Every challenge was little simpler to overcome because to his stillness and leadership.
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At family dinners, I will miss him. In our family, we enjoy eating, and having dinner together as a family is one of our favourite activities. We communicated through it, and family announcements and decisions were made there. Dinners at Thanksgiving and Christmas are our favourites. Every year for as long as I can remember, friends and family assemble at the table for the holidays. The way his voice, laughter, and warmth filled the room will be sorely missed by all of us. I’ll miss getting him his holiday pecan pie and spending Christmas morning in my pyjamas watching him beam with delight as the grandchildren unwrapped their gifts.
I shall miss his wise counsel, even though I didn’t always heed it. I shall miss holding his hand and watching him dance with joy. Sharing my struggles and victories with him will be missed. I will miss seeing him make advances on women and seeing my mother act absolutely unaffected by it all.
Just a few of the things I shall miss much are listed below. However, I can hear my father’s voice asking me to turn to my family for comfort when I’m grieving. When I do, my mother demonstrates his love for his family. I recognise him in my lovely sisters. I can see Beverly’s resolve. I can see his fortitude in Pam, his amazing sense of humour in Sherri, his compassion in Gina, and his artistic talent in Sydney. I can recognise him in my daughter’s commitment to social justice and hear him in my son’s joy.
He left a piece of himself with us, which we will always be grateful for, even though he took a piece of our heart and a piece of our soul with him.
Sydney’s daughter also honoured her father in the Instagram post that is included below.
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Chef Wolfgang Puck
Sidney used to frequent Spago for lunch, supper, and birthday celebrations for years on end. He hired us to perform her wedding. In our manager’s words, Sidney stated, “If I die one day, I want to be buried underneath the brunch food at Spago, I love it so much.” I was talking to our manager about Sidney at the time.
When he was in a booth writing a speech and knew Gelila, my wife, was expecting our first boy, it was one of the most meaningful memories — and he made me weep, and I don’t cry easily. “You know, Wolfgang, it would be an honour for me to be the godfather of your children,” he remarked as he turned to face me. What did you just say, I asked him as I turned to face him? Although unexpected, it was quite sincere. “I look up to you and my children will look up to you,” I told Sidney, “therefore that was the nicest present you could give me.” I genuinely think that Gelila and I are fortunate to have known him and Joanna.
Cheryl Boone Isaacs
Cheryl Boone Isaacs is honoured by Poitier at the 2014 YWCA Greater Los Angeles Rhapsody Ball. T. O. M. A. S. B. D./WIRE
Sidney Poitier passed away on January 6, and as the founding director of the Sidney Poitier New American Film School at Arizona State University, his passing sharply brought to mind the influence he had on the film business and the Black community as a whole.
People of colour had few options prior to Sidney becoming well-known in the film industry. He frequently remarked that he was the only Black person present during production meetings and on the sets of movies. Sidney, along with Quincy Jones, Harry Belafonte, Suzanne de Passe, and my late brother Ashley, opened many doors for me to walk through in my career.
Many years ago, when I first met Sidney, I thought he was a gentleman. Even though he was already a well-known actor, he didn’t project greater or better than; instead, he quickly put me at ease. He exuded such a calm, brilliant vitality. You had the impression that he was the only person in the room when he spoke to you. His assurance and empathy were exceptional in that they were 100 percent sincere.
As a member of the Academy’s board of governors, I had the privilege of being present in the audience in 2002, 38 years after Sidney won his Oscar for best actor for his performance in Lilies of the Field, when Sidney received an honorary Oscar for his contributions to the film industry. Halle Berry and Denzel Washington received their Oscars for best actress and actor, respectively, later that evening. Sidney had prepared the road, making it all possible.
I was chosen president of the Academy in 2013 after serving on its board of governors for 21 years. I was the third woman and first Black person to hold the position, and I held it for the maximum number of four one-year terms. In any of the four acting categories, there were no Black nominees during my second or third years. In January 2015, #OscarsSoWhite ignited a fire that expedited such improvements. The Academy had already started working to increase inclusion in our membership; I had established the A2020 Initiative to double the number of women and persons from underrepresented areas by 2020. As a result, the number of Academy members has increased in ways that were unthinkable in 1964 when Sidney won his Oscar.
I received several accolades over my time as president, but two stick out because they were given to me by Sidney: the Trailblazer Award from Essence magazine and the YWCA Greater Los Angeles Silver Achievement Award (who was joined by Oprah Winfrey at the Essence event).
Even though his loss is deeply saddening, it serves as a crucial reminder for us to appreciate the incredible impact he has had on our industry and on so many people of colour around the world, including me. Sidney embodies the best of who we are all. I was fortunate to be able to call him a friend, and I look forward to continuing his legacy at the Sidney Poitier New American Film School. He was one of my strongest supporters throughout my career.
Poitier receives the Presidential Medal of Freedom from Obama. GETTY IMAGES/CHIP SOMODEVILLA
Sidney Poitier was observing the process in 2007 or 2008 when Barack Obama was running for the Democratic nominee for president and felt a mix of hope and dread. In addition to being a voter and a Black man, Poitier supported Obama because he understood the challenges and risks associated with being a “first.” Poitier, who was raised in the Bahamas after being born in Miami, was concerned about the young senator from Illinois.
This issue came up at a meal with friends, including producer Mike Medavoy, his wife Irena, and music mogul Berry Gordy. “I mentioned that I believe Obama has a strong chance of winning. How exhilarating and great it was that he might influence this situation, adds Irena. “Sidney declared, “I’m worried about him. Since that is where I come from, I don’t want anything to happen to him, thus I don’t want him to flee.
Martin Luther King Jr.’s March on Washington in 1963 and King’s funeral in 1968 were events Poitier attended, donated to civil rights causes, and hosted activists at his home. His work in films like Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner and A Raisin in the Sun frequently reflected the civil rights movement developing off-screen. He was the first Black man to win an Oscar for Lilies of the Field in 1964, breaking down boundaries for Black actors, but in the late 1960s, he came under fire for choosing to play parts that would appeal to white audiences.
Poitier was reportedly overjoyed when Obama was elected president in 2008, according to Irena. “It brought me delight, pride, and relief. However, it was intriguing to view it from a fatherly perspective because he was worried about his security. He was likely to be worried.
Obama awarded Poitier the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009. Poitier “made an indelible influence on American culture,” he claimed. Sidney Poitier conveyed the universal tragedy of racism, the inspirational promise of peace, and the straightforward joys of ordinary life to audiences that were Black and White and working to restore the moral compass of the country. In the end, both the man and the character would advance the national conversation about race and respect. R. E. Keegan
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