To Sidney, with Love
Posted by Allison
I was first introduced to Mr. Poitier when I was 12 years old. I had just moved to America from Trinidad and was fascinated with all-night television. … All night was great, but it quickly brought me to the realization that I was a minority. There were not many blacks on television, so I was so excited to see my first Poitier movie, A Patch of Blue. I was so impressed with him. Seeing him in such a role, a black man in a lead role of a movie is really what I needed to maintain my confidence in this new world. His confidence on the screen resonated in me. The more I learned about him, the more proud I became to be a black girl in America. I felt such a connection to him because we were both from the Caribbean. When I read his book, I felt more connected to him; learning about his life in Cat Island reminded me of my earlier years in Trinidad.
Fast forward to my adult life. I am still finding connections to Mr. Poitier. Three years ago I was pregnant and quickly decided that I wanted to name my child Sidney. My husband, who is from Kenya, did not share my sentiment. We finally agreed that if it was a boy we would name him Anthony after my husband, and if it was a girl she would be named Sidney. When we found we were having a boy, I kept trying to work on my husband to change his mind. Then my mother-in-law came to visit that Easter. The night she came we watched a Poitier movie I had never seen before called Something of Value. The irony of the movie was that it was based in Kenya and Mr. Poitier portrayed a Kenyan warrior named Kimani, which is my husband's family name. I, of course, told my husband that this was a sign. He did not fall for it. Finally, I had to get myself hospitalized at 21-weeks pregnant and was told that I would have to be there flat on my back until I delivered. After a few days in the hospital, I took advantage of my condition and my husband's desire to do anything to make me feel good and got him to agree to name our son Sidney. Our Sidney ended up being born at 25 weeks. The final coincidence, which, of course, you know from reading The Measure of a Man was that Mr. Poitier was also a preemie.
Posted by Jamieson
When I was around 12 or 13 years old, I saw a movie that changed my life and how I viewed it: Guess Who's Coming to Dinner. The idea that a white woman could date a black man was so amazing to me, sheltered as I was in white suburbia. There was only one black family in my entire neighborhood and I had little to no exposure to anything that was considered different. Sidney Poitier's role in Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (as well as that of the woman and man who played his parents) showed me that though different, we were all the same.
It's been a long time since I have read a book that is life-changing and I'm thankful, beyond words, to be reading Poitier's words.
So in the end, all I can say is thank you. Thank you for opening my eyes, thank you for showing me that, despite our differences, we are all human; thank you for being an example for many, and thank you for your words.
Posted by Sandra
As a young girl I'd rush home after school to watch the 4 o'clock movie. I always loved it when Sidney Poitier was showing. A Patch of Blue was my favorite, but I must say the soundtrack from To Sir, with Love is still one of my favorites.
Having all of the men on my mother's side of the family marrying white women, I know the taboo it posed. My sister and I weren't even allowed to go to the weddings (too controversial for children) at that time in the late 1960s, early 1970s. So Guess Who's Coming to Dinner was very, very poignant for me. This man, Sir Poitier, was so thought provoking for me even as a young lady! He portrayed topics that even my family wouldn't discuss. His early films touched my life in very meaningful ways. I cried, laughed, swooned and molded my thinking largely due to his portrayals.
Posted by Maggie
Opening this book is opening up the man. He has had a great influence on my life. Growing up watching his movies, I was very influenced by the roles he portrayed and the messages from those films.
Growing up in a multiracial Bronx neighborhood, meeting all kinds of people, I was taught at home and in the movies we were allowed to view that each person has value. Each of us has purpose.
Learning more about the man has shown me that he lived this and was given the opportunity to play these roles because we as Americans needed to see a black man respected by himself first, so that we could respect. Racial riots happened in the Bronx and many were led astray to violence. We kept hope in our beliefs in each other and were reinforced with those wonderful movies. Thank you for your wonderful book and life worth reading about.
Posted by Debbie
I was a 14-year-old living in New Jersey whose father just died in an auto accident when I first saw A Patch of Blue. That movie filled my soul. The blind girl represented how lonely and isolated I felt as a shy girl in middle school, yet she had the courage and ignorance to make it to the park and string her beads. And here comes this great protector/kindred spirit of a man, much more worldly and experienced than the girl, who could watch over and maybe fall in love with her. And he stood up and saved her from the incredibly evil mother played by Shelley Winters. That was my introduction to The Man.
I love the book because of the picture he paints of his childhood and early adulthood and the story he tells of his life.
Posted by Darlene
When I was 19 years old, my girlfriend and I were walking down Massachusetts Avenue in Cambridge, Massachusetts. We were on our way home and in the midst of our conversing, there he was, Mr. Sidney Poitier, walking down the street toward us. My girlfriend and I spoke to him politely like we had just seen him yesterday and kept walking.
We got halfway down the street, stopped and screamed at each other that we had just spoken to Sidney Poitier! We ran back to catch up with him to properly greet him. He spoke to us kindly and then he said six words to me that changed my life. He said, "You are a beautiful black woman!" He did not say that to my friend, he looked deep into my eyes.
I will never forget those wonderful, wonderful words! I am a dark-skinned woman and in the past had issues with my beauty. I had always wished I were lighter-skinned, thinking I would be accepted better by my peers. I was teased about being so dark. But when I heard Mr. Poitier say those words to me, I was forever changed. I dressed differently and I told myself that I was beautiful every day. That was a summer day that I will never forget as long as I live!
Posted by Cynthia
I recall vividly, it had to be 1963, when my mother and her boyfriend were going to go to the movies and took me along! I was 8. There was some discussion of what to see, and I recall that I wanted to see It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World while they wanted to see something called Lilies of the Field. I was mad about that, but had to go anyway.
Wow! What I saw was spellbinding and opened my world so much—the protagonist was a good and simple man, the nuns with their strange accents, the unfamiliar southwestern environment, with the Hispanic store manager—I had never experienced anything like it…
Of course, I loved Mr. Poitier's other movies, too, especially Guess Who's Coming to Dinner and To Sir, with Love, but I was older then, and knew what to expect from Mr. Poitier—a strong and dignified performance. But it was Lilies of the Field that first touched my heart, and I believe, showed me the "measure of a man." My mother's boyfriend was that man—good and simple—and even after all these years, I loved him as a father, and recently attended his funeral in November 2006. My husband is that man—good and simple—and we have been married going on 24 years. What else can I say about Mr. Poitier's influence on my life?
Posted by Heidi
I grew up in the 1950s in a town that did not allow African-Americans to live there. My only experience was when the "colored boys" went to the city swimming pool. They were kicked out and the pool was drained and Cloroxed for a week.
It was when I was a new, young nurse in Vietnam and sat in the tiny theater with folding chairs that I saw To Sir, with Love. It was my first experience of seeing an African-American as a whole, magnificent human being. I am deeply grateful for that life-changing experience, because I went on to take care of many soldiers and was able to make no race distinctions.
Sidney Poitier made me a better nurse and far better person. His choice to play roles that showed his full measure as a man was his teaching opportunity.
Posted by Jennifer
As a young African-American girl at the tender age of 13, I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Poitier. This was in 1987 that I met him. He was at a dinner in Hollywood for black actors who were being honored by their peers for their contribution to Hollywood. …
I did not know that Mr. Poitier was going to be there and my heart literally dropped to the floor when I saw him. I loved his movies and my favorite movie has always been A Patch of Blue.
He randomly walked up to me at the dinner and asked me how old I was and if I was in school. When I told him I was in the ninth grade, he told me to finish high school and to go on to college and major in English. He told me to master the English language, for he only had a fourth-grade education and he learned his mastery of the language from overhearing others talk in his various jobs. He shared with me that every day is a learning opportunity.
He inspired me so much that I ended up graduating at the top of my high school class. I was able to get into the college of my dreams, double majored in English and philosophy, and I ended up getting departmental honors in English.
I did my family and myself proud by graduating magna cum laude, because I worked extremely hard while in college. I spent most of my time in the library learning as much as I could and to be empowered by my professors, their lessons in class and life lessons from my classmates.
After college, I went to law school and now I am working hard to giving back to my community financially, physically and emotionally.
Every day I read the paper (as Mr. Poitier recommended to me), and I read on any and everything that comes my way. I thank God for the blessings that come my way, and I try to serve as a positive role model to any young person that I meet.
I've always attempted to live my life in respecting myself and others, and I have always made God the center of my universe, as Mr. Poitier told me to do. Thank you, Mr. Poitier, for your endless inspiration throughout my life.
Posted by Dorrel
I was 29 years of age when I migrated from Costa Rica with a husband and my two beautiful daughters. They were 6 and 7, and I was scared out of my wits not only because of the culture shock, but also the language barriers, the winter cold, the subways, the gigantic escalators, the segregated communities, the food, and I could continue on. So, I do have a little understanding of what Mr. Poitier endured.
His background is very similar to mine since I was raised by very strict and religious parents that migrated to Costa Rica from Kingston, Jamaica, with their parents via the Panama Canal. My grandparents worked as laborers on the construction of the Canal and from there moved to Costa Rica and made it their home.
I have been a Sidney Poitier fan since I first saw him on film in Costa Rica in To Sir, with Love. Since then I have followed his career religiously. I read his first book This Life. It is still in my library. I have seen, and would venture to say, all his movies. …
Mr. Poitier is thirteen years my senior, and needless to say, he has my respect and admiration. He has built a foundation for all African-Americans that cannot ever be destroyed. Gratitude does not describe what we owe to Mr. Poitier! I wish him continued health and a very long life.