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Halle Berry recently wrote a tribute to an icon and her role model, Sidney Poitier, that was published in Variety. Halle met Sidney while working on the 1999 film Introducing Dorothy Dandridge. Halle said that she has always felt connected to Sidney since seeing Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner as a child. She wrote that, despite being starstruck every time she saw Sidney, he was always gracious and dropped a few words of wisdom. Halle realized that Sidney reminded her of her father in many ways and that is what drew her to him. Below are a few more highlights from Variety:
Sidney’s impact on me did not end there. Over the years, I looked to him as a sterling example, as a template of manhood and all that is honorable. I was just 4 when my parents separated, when my father’s alcoholism upended our family. As imperfect as my dad was, as deep of a wedge as his fury drove between us, I loved him, missed him, longed to have him close. In my mind’s eye, and in my father’s absence, Sidney epitomized what a man should be: unflappable and courageous, eloquent and proud, charming and handsome. He even physically resembled my father. I wasn’t yet born in 1964 when Sidney became the first Black man to win an Academy Award for best actor for his role in “Lilies of the Field.” But years later, when I witnessed the moment in a Black History class, I could not look away. Sidney’s grace and poise, the intention with which he spoke, the dignified way he carried himself — all of it resonated with me. Though I hadn’t met him, and did not dream that I ever would, I felt strongly connected to him.
Sidney selected his roles carefully. In a nation that routinely demonized Blacks both on-screen and off, and in a media landscape that showed little respect for our humanity, he knew he did not have the luxury of playing characters that would further denigrate us. “It’s a choice, a clear choice,” he once said in an interview. “If the fabric of the society were different, I would scream to high heaven to play villains and to deal with different images of Negro life that would be more dimensional. But I’ll be damned if I do that at this stage of the game.” For that stance, and as the civil rights movement took a more defiant turn in the late 1960s, he received criticism even from some in his own community. Yet I respected his choices. He intended to present our people with the same dignity he strode through the world with. He relied only on his own moral compass, on his own sense of how to best use his gift. “I did not go into the film business to be symbolized as someone else’s vision of me,” he once said. His artistic choices were his way of raising his voice.
Years after I admired …read more
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