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Thursday, May 23, 2024

Transitions – Harder not impossible: A Tribute to Sidney Poitier

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I greatly admired the late Sidney Poitier, the first Black man to win an Oscar for 1964’s Lilies of the Field. His portrayal was non-traditional and inspirational. I read his biography and saw many of his films.

My fondest memory is of an event that almost happened to me.

I attended an international church conference in Europe. On one of our European stops, to accommodate our large group, we were booked onto two different flights. The other group – DRAT – encountered the famous actor at the Amsterdam airport with his bodyguards. When he saw 25 Black Americans rushing toward him, he gently pushed his security aside to be enveloped by his adoring fans. I basked in their delight of touching him!

When Poitier accepted his Oscar in 1964 and again an honorary Oscar in 2002, he thanked the “handful of visionary American filmmakers, directors, writers and producers” who made his career possible by going against the odds.

From his first major role as a doctor in No Way Out treating a virulent racist portrayed by Richard Widmark, to Lilies in the Field, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner with Spencer Tracy and Kathryn Hepburn, to the slap heard around the world when he slapped a plantation owner In the Heat of the Night (and got away with it), Sidney Poitier made waves.

The fact that he was able to portray characters with dignity, compassion, and professional credentials started a major change in Hollywood that is still going on.

In later years he referred to “young bloods” (Black actors, directors, and writers) who are now making progress that it is not impossible to succeed, just harder.

I have been writing screenplays for years and I have had moments where gender, race, location (not LA), and age are hindrances. As I re-read his comments this past month, I was encouraged that my goals are harder, but definitely not impossible. Thank you, Mr. Poitier.

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Barbara Blomquist
Barbara Blomquist
Barbara Blomquist is a Naperville resident, wife, mother, quilter, and screenwriter. Contact her at BWBLomquist@aol.com.

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