The Original

Sidney Poitier died Thursday at the age of 94.

Those of you who don’t recognize the name, look him up. He was a Big Deal.

He was a magnificent actor, who brought dignity to every role he played, from the schoolteacher in “To Sir, With Love”, to a police detective in “In the Heat of the Night”, to a handyman who builds a church for a group of nuns in “Lilies of the Field” a role for which he won a Best Actor Academy Award in 1964.

The Big Deal? He was the first Black actor to ever receive that award.

Courtesy Associated Press

The Big Deal? He was pretty much the only Black actor working in Hollywood at the time. As he once recalled, “I made films when the only other Black on the lot was the shoeshine boy. I was kind of the lone guy in town.”

In 1967, theater owners named him the Number One movie star, the first time a Black actor was so honored.

Sidney was the trailblazer, the one who paved the way for those who followed, like Danny Glover, James Earl Jones, Louis Gossett, Jr., Denzel Washington, Will Smith, Halle Berry and so many more.

He had a message for all those followers in 1992, in his acceptance speech for the American Film Institute Lifetime Achievement Award:

“Welcome, young Blacks. Those of us who go before you glance back with satisfaction and leave you with a simple trust: Be true to yourselves and be useful to the journey.”

Enjoy some Sidney Poitier movies this weekend; read about his early struggles that shaped him into the actor, and the man, he became.

He truly was a Big Deal.

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