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90th Birthday Tribute for Sir Sidney Poitier Held in The Bahamas
Feb 15, 2017 - 11:00:03 PM

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The Tribute was held on Sunday, February 12th at the Baha Mar Convention Center Ballroom

Nassau, Bahamas - On February 20th, Sir Sidney Poitier, KBE, a Bahamian-American actor, film director, author,  diplomat will be turning 90 years of age.  On February 12tha special celebration and tribute was held for the first Bahamian and first African-American to win an Academy Award for Best Actor. 

The following are remarks by the Rt. Hon. Perry G. Christie, Prime Minister of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas:

I count it an honour and privilege to be among the family and special guests who have assembled this evening to pay tribute and to honour Sir Sidney Poitier as he marks yet another milestone in his long and colourful life, the celebration of his 90th Birthday.

To have reached this particular milestone is most assuredly a blessing from God and we give thanks to the Almighty that he has given long life and good health to one who in so many ways represents the best that life has to offer and who represents human dignity, grace and charm, talent and excellence in the performing arts that have been his hallmark over these many years.

As we are all aware, Sir Sidney’s journey to this time and place is the story of legends and continues to inspire many who themselves seek to overcome adversity and who to sail against the tide.

Sir Sidney himself has written movingly about his life and journey in his autobiography, “The Measure of a Man: A Spiritual Autobiography”. We know of his early hardships and the struggles of his family who were for the most part subsistence farmers who visited the United States periodically and that he was born in Miami on one such visit.

Growing up in The Bahamas during the 30’s and 40’s was in itself not a bed of roses. There were hardships and limitations. Employment was hard to come by and there was no economy to talk about. Many persons drifted between The Bahamas and the United States, particularly Florida and Sir Sidney’s parents were in many ways no different from hundreds of Bahamians who drifted back and forth to earn a decent livelihood.

But as in everything, Sir Sidney wanted more from life and despite the formidable barriers and obstacles he encountered he would better himself and the vehicle he chose was the acting profession. How this came about is hard to fathom but it was the road less taken and it has made all of the difference.

Realistically, there were considerable odds against Sir Sidney making it in the field of acting. It is a profession, where, whether Black or White, the percentage that made it to the silver screen was extremely small. Added to this was the fact that Sir Sidney was a Black man, thus further increasing the odds against his success.

But succeed he did and after a stint on the stage he went on to make more than a dozen movies, beginning with his first success on the screen in the film, “No Way Out”, and many others which were highly acclaimed. He was able to garner the highest honour in the world of cinema when in 1964 he won the Oscar as Best Actor in the film “Lilies of the Field”.

We all remember the joy and euphoria of Bahamians when they heard that one of their own whose roots went back to Cat Island had won such a prestigious award. In fact when many celebrities sought to re-invent themselves by changing their names and embellishing their biographies, Sir Sidney, if nothing else, dug deeper into his roots.

For our part, it is indisputable that Sir Sidney is a national treasure who has burnished not only his own reputation but through his international acclaim, that of The Bahamas far and wide.

We have recognized his international stature as a leading icon of film and the performing arts by awarding him a Knighthood and, most recently when my Government returned to office, by naming one of the bridges to Paradise Island in his honour.

At the same time because of his studied influence in the international world we are grateful for his service in diplomacy where he has served as Ambassador to Japan and at UNESCO, both assignments which he discharged with great skill and grace. All of this is befitting a man who embodies a strong sense of patriotism and belonging to his beloved Bahamas.

Sir Sidney, as you celebrate your 90th birthday there is much in your life that is emblematic of struggle, hard work, determination and wanting to make a success of oneself that can serve as a model for this present generation of Bahamians.

The point is that it does not matter where the journey began, but in truth, where it ends. Your own journey began in the hardscrabble fields of Cat Island and in the colourful district of Over-the-Hill in Nassau. It continued in dire circumstances as you migrated to New York and where you did everything possible to become an actor.

It continued in the challenging and racially charged waters of Hollywood where you were able to achieve success against great odds. You have succeeded where many would have given up. And here you are now at the age of 90 years still going strong and where you have become a truly iconic figure and an inspiration to all.

May you continue to achieve and to inspire as you move along life’s journey. May you continue to be blessed Sir Sidney, with good health and may you continue to enjoy the love and adulation, not only of your family, but also of the public at large who hold you in such high esteem.

Happy Birthday and may the Almighty continue to shower you with His blessings and grace.

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