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Sir Sidney Poitier dies age 94

LEFT: Sidney Poitier poses with his Oscar for best actor for "Lillies of the Field" at the 36th Annual Academy Awards in Santa Monica, Calif. on April 13, 1964. 

RIGHT: Sir Sidney Poitier poses for a portrait in Beverly Hills, California in 2008. (AP Photo/Matt Sayles, File)

LEFT: Sidney Poitier poses with his Oscar for best actor for "Lillies of the Field" at the 36th Annual Academy Awards in Santa Monica, Calif. on April 13, 1964. RIGHT: Sir Sidney Poitier poses for a portrait in Beverly Hills, California in 2008. (AP Photo/Matt Sayles, File)

Legendary Bahamian actor, activist, director and ambassador Sir Sidney Poitier has died age 94.

Sir Sidney was the first Black actor to win an Academy Award – for his role in Lilies of the Field – in 1964.

He served as the Bahamian Ambassador to Japan from 1997 to 2007 and, in 2009, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

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Prime Minister Philip 'Brave' Davis with Minister of Foreigner Affairs Fred Mitchell during Friday's live broadcast paying tribune to Sir Sidney Poitier. BIS Photo: Eric Rose

“It is with great sadness that I learnt this morning of the passing of Sir Sidney Poitier,” Prime Minister Philip 'Brave' Davis said at a briefing at the Office of the Prime Minister on Friday, flanked by Minister of Foreign Affairs Fred Mitchell.

“Our whole Bahamas grieves and extends our deepest condolences to his family. But even as we mourn, we celebrate the life of a great Bahamian, a cultural icon, an actor and film director, entrepreneur, civil and human rights activist and latterly, a diplomat.

“We admire the man, not just because of his colossal achievements, 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. The boy who moved from the tomato farm of Cat Island to become a waiter in the United States, the young man who not only taught himself to read and write, but who made the expression of words and thoughts and feelings central to his career.

“The man who expressed his rage against racial injustice through quiet dignity. The humanitarian who used his steely determination, not just to better himself, but to better the world that he lived in, filtered through the milk of human kindness and all of it achieved without sacrificing integrity, charm, elegance or wit.

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President Barack Obama presents the 2009 Presidential Medal of Freedom to Sidney Poitier during ceremonies in the East Room at the White House in Washington on, Aug. 12, 2009.

“These things don’t come easy, but the fight can be good. Your peers don’t give you an Oscar, you win an Oscar. Success is not a given, but it can come to those who translate talent into craft and perseverance,” Mr Davis said.

Asked by a reporter if he thought the country did enough to recognise Sir Sidney when he was alive, Mr Davis said he thinks more could have been done.

In 2012, the government named the northbound Paradise Island bridge in Sir Sidney’s honour.

“I think we did a lot to give him his flowers while he was alive. We have not done enough, I think. We intend to sit as a government to see what else we can do to mark his bearing in the Bahamas and the world. . .” he said, adding that this will be a discussion point moving forward.

In response to a reporter, Mr Davis also said his government will focus on developing the orange economy as one of the key pillars of economic growth, adding that Sir Sidney’s death will propel the government to intensify its efforts to embrace that opportunity.

Tributes for Sir Sidney have poured out from those at home and abroad.

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FREE National Movement leader Michael Pintard.

Leader of the Opposition Michael Pintard said Sir Sidney was a constant source of inspiration.

“Today, we join the world including the global cinematic community in mourning the passing of Sir Sidney Poitier, a Bahamian son, a truly gifted artist and a passionate activist,” Mr Pintard said. “Sir Sidney, through his work and off the screen contributions revealed his incredible spirit, loving soul and cultural talents to the international community. His gifts and pride in his native land brought recognition to the Bahamas and in time he became one of our nation’s most outstanding ambassadors and cultural icons. 

“He was born in Miami, the son of Bahamian tomato farmers, spent his early years on stunningly beautiful Cat Island, wore clothes made from flour sacks and got into the usual boyish mischief. 

“Then he left Cat Island and set out on a remarkable journey that eventually brought him recognition and acclaim around the world. 

“Sir Sidney Poitier shook up the American film industry, shattered the glass ceiling which relegated black actors to minor or demeaning roles and became the first black actor to win an Oscar for his performance in the film 'Lilies of the Field'. 

“His life was a source of inspiration for millions around the world especially disadvantaged young people. His life ignited a fire in the heart of thousands of Bahamians. He was endowed by his Creator with a keen intellect, talent, natural dignity and graciousness, all of which earned universal admiration. 

“Sir Sidney’s career began during very difficult times as America was on the verge of a great movement for civil rights. It positively impacted that struggle, especially with the 1950 movie 'No Way Out', in which he played a black doctor opposite a racist character played by his friend Richard Widmark, and later on the movie 'Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner' with renowned American actress Katharine Hepburn which also confronted the race issue. 

“Sir Sidney became active in the civil rights movement along with friends like Harry Belafonte. He introduced some of his friends to the Bahamas including Belafonte, Miriam Makeba and Sammy Davis Jr. 

“The 1950 movie sent shock waves through the Bahamian social and political establishment when the political masters of the day refused to allow it to be shown here. This led to the formation of the Citizen’s Committee by a number of prominent Bahamians which not only agitated to have the movie shown but broadened its campaign for greater social equality and political progress. In the face of a vigorous campaign the authorities relented and the movie was shown in Nassau theatres, much to the delight of the population. 

“While we have named the new Nassau Paradise Island bridge in honour of Sir Sidney it would be wonderful to name the School of Arts at the University of the Bahamas in his honour add to that one of the adjacent streets. 

“As a creative myself he was a constant source of inspiration for me as well as thousands of Bahamian artists and artisans. 

“On behalf of the Official Opposition and on my own behalf I offer sincere condolences and deep sympathy to Sir Sidney’s wife, children and other relatives. His life will always be an inspiration to us. May he rest in peace.”

American director and actor Tyler Perry said on Facebook, “Around this time last year Cicely Tyson was releasing her book and promoting it. I had no idea she would pass away shortly thereafter. Now, to wake up this morning to a call that Sidney Poitier has passed away... all I can tell you is that my heart broke in another place. The grace and class that this man has shown throughout his entire life, the example he set for me, not only as a black man but as a human being will never be forgotten. There is no man in this business who has been more of a North Star for me than Sidney Poitier.”

American talk show host Oprah Winfrey released a statement saying, “For me, the greatest of the ‘Great Trees’ has fallen: Sidney Poitier. My honour to have loved him as a mentor. Friend. Brother. Confidant. Wisdom teacher. The utmost, highest regard and praise for his most magnificent, gracious, eloquent life. I treasured him. I adored him. He had an enormous soul I will forever cherish. Blessings to Joanna and his world of beautiful daughters.”

Deputy Prime Minister Chester Cooper wrote on Facebook: “We have lost an icon; a hero, a mentor, a fighter, a national treasure.

“I was conflicted with great sadness and a sense of celebration when I learned of the passing of Sir Sindey Poitier.

“Sadness that he would no longer be here to tell him how much he means to us, but celebration that he did so much to show the world that those from the humblest beginnings can change the world and that we gave him his flowers while he was with us.

“He will be missed sorely, but his is a legacy that will never be forgotten.”

Sir Sidney was born prematurely on February 20, 1927, weighing just three pounds, in Miami, where his parents had gone to deliver tomatoes from their farm on Cat Island. He spent his early years on Cat Island and he quit school at 12 to help support the family. Three years later, he was sent to live with a brother in Miami. When he was 16, he moved to New York and enlisted in the army before pursuing acting.

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Deputy Prime Minister statement

Comments

tribanon 5 months, 3 weeks ago

Not sure I would go that far given that he was born in Miami and chose to live the much greater portion of his life in the U.S. Grant you though, he was kind enough to let himself be "claimed" by The Bahamas.

Sean Connery, who was born in Scotland, actually spent much more of his life in The Bahamas than Sidney Poitier ever did. Perhaps you consider them both to be Bahamian heroes.

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1pnewman 5 months, 3 weeks ago

Id..t! Sean Connery spent most of his life in the Bahamas to avoid paying taxes!!! Are you simple or what? There is no comparison to be made between the two actors.

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tribanon 5 months, 3 weeks ago

Are you really saying Sir Sidney wanted to pay more taxes during his lifetime and therefore decided to spend most of his life living in the U.S.? Put another way, do you really believe Sir Sidney did not want to spend much more of his life in The Bahamas simply because Bahamians have no appetite for paying taxes of any kind, especially income tax? lol

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1pnewman 5 months, 3 weeks ago

You made a comparison between the two actors and where they decided to live their lives.Let me spell it out for you as you seem confused as to their individual decisions. SP was an American citizen and spent his life in the USA as a working actor. He lived in LA as the vast majority of actors do, as that's where movies are made.He wasn't being unpatriotic by doing this but simply following a path to garner work and gain income.SC was a British actor who if he decided to live in the UK would have been subjected to high UK taxes. He could have lived in LA like SP but decided to live in The Bahamas to avoid paying taxes. Its that simple. There was nothing inherently patriotic or altruistic about SC decision to live in The Bahamas. It was merely financial.

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tribanon 5 months, 3 weeks ago

There are a lot of other places around the world Sir Sean could have spent most of his life and paid little or no taxes. The fact that he chose the Bahamas as his home was not merely financial.

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realitycheck242 5 months, 3 weeks ago

"To Sir with love" Rest in heavenly peace, The most famous Bahamian that ever lived.

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licks2 5 months, 3 weeks ago

I think our most famous Bahamian was L.O. Pindling. . .period!!

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1pnewman 5 months, 3 weeks ago

You're either not too smart or overly patriotic. The word 'famous'essentially means known by millions of people worldwide. LOP is known in these islands and the Caribbean diaspora granted, however then consider the fact that SP was the FIRST black man to win an Academy Award and delivered numerous other firsts in the entertainment industry, whilst living in the biggest media centre of the world(Los Angeles) . Its not even a discussion. He's one of the most famous MEN of the 20th century.

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tribanon 5 months, 3 weeks ago

I'm embarrassed to say my 22 year-old grandson recently said: "Who was this Poitier fella and why is he so famous?" But he knows just all about all there is to know about LOP, both good and bad. Being the first black PM of The Bahamas has obviously resonated much more with the youth of our country than being the first black American to win an Academy Award. Many of us who are much older can and should admire Sir Sidney's legacy but not without keeping it in perspective and within its historical context and significance for our small nation

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1pnewman 5 months, 3 weeks ago

I agree with your post. That being said I responded to the original post in the context it was stated. LOP was more well known in The Bahamas for sure but as for being the most FAMOUS Bahamian, that distinction would belong to SP.

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TalRussell 5 months, 3 weeks ago

De first rule to a radio's Chatty Host's, adding novel-writin' to em's list of accomplishments is, youse can't just keep a novel - stored up in youse head....and everything else like this and that shows in de unpreparedness to intelligently review de long and remarkable life of we own UK Colony's "True Life's Commitment to Preparedness, Comrade Sidney Poitier, ― Yes?

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quietone 5 months, 3 weeks ago

Earth, Receive an Honoured Guest... A Great Bahamian will be laid to rest!!!

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John 5 months, 3 weeks ago

"The legacy of heroes — the memory of a great name, and the inheritance of a great example." "As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words but to live by them." “No duty is more urgent than that of returning thanks.” "May we never forget our fallen comrades.’

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Alan1 5 months, 3 weeks ago

A wonderful Bahamian all round. From humble beginnings to a Knighthood bestowed by our Queen he was the most amazing man. Sincere condolences to his family.

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whogothere 5 months, 3 weeks ago

Mr Poitier god bless you and thank you inspiring generations of future Bahamians... Rest in peace..

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GodSpeed 5 months, 3 weeks ago

Was Sidney Poitier was a dual citizen 🤔, I thought the Bahamas didn't recognize dual citizenship.

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1pnewman 5 months, 3 weeks ago

How could they not? There are thousands of Bahamians with dual or even triple citizenships. What do you think Albany and Old Fort Bay etc were established for?

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tribanon 5 months, 3 weeks ago

Most of us fully agree with that sentiment.

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TalRussell 5 months, 3 weeks ago

"Authentisch" was Comrade Sidney Poitier as de main one, we so proudly claimed as one of we UK Colony's and everything else like this and that may now and forever R.I.P.,― Yes?

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1pnewman 5 months, 2 weeks ago

This post makes no sense at all. Total gibberish.

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BONEFISH 5 months, 3 weeks ago

Rest in peace Sir Sidney. Trailblazer, icon and civil rights activist. To hear persons like Oprah Winifrey, Tyler Perry, Halle Berry and even President Biden speak of him after his passing was astounding. It showed how many lives were impacted by him.

The Bahamas by in large has done a poor job in highlighting the achievements of bahamians in the diaspora. The Bahamas is way behind in this regard in comparison to other caribbean countries.

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1pnewman 5 months, 2 weeks ago

In the 'diaspora' ? Do you know what the word means?

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