Sidney Poitier was a lion of cinema. An actor of great dignity and range, his passing on Jan. 6, at age 94, certainly brought out emotions, memories and admiration from the film community.
An activist and humanitarian, as well as an artist, many of his groundbreaking performances in films released during the Civil Rights Movement, such as Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner, In The Heat of the Night, and To Sir, With Love, took an unflinching look at race relations.
Poitier made history in 1964, becoming the first Black actor to win the Academy Award for Best Actor. He was again recognized by the Academy with an Honorary Oscar in 2002. He was an icon and an inspiration, and the tributes that poured out show how much he meant to so many actors and filmmakers.
“Sidney Poitier was my window into what was possible in the face of the improbable. He was my North Star,” actor and producer David Oyelowo, one of the co-chairs of the Academy’s Black Caucus, told A.frame.
Fellow co-chair, filmmaker and actor Nate Parker, honored Poitier as “the embodiment of dignity, excellence and resistance. Our hero is now our ancestor. May his legacy be our bedrock.”
Producer and President of Orion Pictures, Alana Mayo, also a co-chair for the Academy’s Black Caucus, expressed her gratitude towards Poitier.
“There are so many of Mr. Poitier’s performances that are indelibly imprinted on my brain,” Mayo shared with A.frame. “‘From They call me Mr. Tibbs!’ and the groundbreaking slap in In the Heat of the Night, to the poignant “I owe you nothing” confrontation between father and son in Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, and the many tense conversations in that railcar in The Defiant Ones. Mr. Poitier defined culture. Pushed culture. And for that, we are all eternally grateful.”
Mr. Poitier defined culture. Pushed culture. And for that, we are all eternally grateful.
Following the news of his death, family, friends, and fans took to social media to share their condolences.
Sydney Poitier wrote a poignant tribute to her father on Instagram.
“There are no words for this. No real way to prepare for this. No prose beautiful enough, no speech eloquent enough to capture the essence of my dad. We know his accomplishments are many and that he quite literally changed the landscape for everyone who came after him,” she shared. “He blazed a trail through rough and hostile terrain so those coming behind him could have a bit more ease on the journey.”
Jamie Foxx also shared a beautiful and lengthy tribute.
“From the moment Sidney Poitier was born he was destined for greatness,” Foxx wrote, in part. “He came to America… Hollywood specifically… from the Bahamas… Armed with his infectious smile… His handsome features…wrapped in impeccable Black skin… he was ready for his artistic battle… And battle he did… as an actor he was transcending… he brought legendary depth to each character along with that distinctive voice that could melt your heart in one moment And shake the rafters to the ground in the next.”
“The passing of our giant MR. SIDNEY POITIER is very personal to me,” Spike Lee shared on Instagram. “As a Black kid growing up in the sixties my mother would take me to his films. Mommy loved her some Sidney. Here was a proud, dignified, handsome and strong Black man that we see in our communities all the time but now burst and burnt through the silver screens of Hollywood. Am I the only one who has noticed that every day we are losing the gamechangers who have impacted our lives with their positive force. Rest In Power “MR. TIBBS”.
Director and choreographer Debbie Allen said, “You opened the door for us all. We will forever speak your name, #SidneyPoitier!”
Actor Giancarlo Esposito also took to social media to share his condolences.
“You have been & will continue to be the greatest inspiration of my career,” he wrote. “Your distinguished presence, dignity, strength & courage have inspired all that I aspire to be as a man, a human being, creative artist. Thank you & may you rest in infinite power, Sir Sidney Poitier.”
Halle Berry wrote a tribute in Variety that includes the indelible experience of shared history– Poitier received his Honorary Oscar the same night Berry became the first Black woman to win the Oscar for Best Actress. in
On Twitter, she wrote, “In your ninety-four years on this planet, you left an indelible mark with your extraordinary talent, paving the way for Black people to be seen and heard in the fullness of who we are. You were an iconic trailblazer; yours was a life well lived.”