The Caribbean is mourning one of its shining lights, following the passing of legendary actor, director, humanitarian and ambassador Sir Sidney Poitier, who passed away this weekend at the age of 94.
Poitier was a native of Cat Island in The Bahamas (though the was born in Miami on a weekend trip with his family), and spent his childhood there.
His passing has led to a wave of heartfelt tributes from around the region and the world.
Moving to the US at 15, he rose quickly into one of the biggest young stars in Hollywood; his success reached its zenith with an Academy Award for Best Actor in 1964, making him the first Black actor (and first Bahamian) to win an Oscar for his role in Lilies of the Field.
Other career highlights included roles in The Heat of the Night; To Sir, With Love; Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner; and Sneakers, among others.
After his acting career, Poitier had a long diplomatic career, serving as The Bahamas’ Ambassador to Japan from 1997 to 2007, accompanied by a term as the country’s Ambassador to UNESCO for five years.
The bridge linking the islands of New Providence and Paradise Island is named for Poitier as well.
“On a global scale, Sir Sidney embodied greatness,” Bahamas Deputy Prime Minister and Tourism Minister Chester Cooper told Caribbean Journal. “Through his cinematic roles, he challenged stereotypes, modelled the highest attributes of human dignity and universally typified the individual who, through sheer human resolve and determination, overcomes challenges imposed by the larger society.”
“Sir Sidney, by the measure of his bearing, belonged to the world. Yet, at his most authentic self, Sir Sidney was a Bahamian, and of that fact, the People of The Commonwealth of The Bahamas will be eternally most proud,” Cooper said.
He was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1974.