He called me family. Sir Sidney Poitier whispered in my ear. He kissed my hands. He kissed my face. He blessed me. On February 26, 2007, at the Hobby Center for The Performing Arts here in Houston, TX, I simply just wanted to thank him. I tried to approach him as I would any other man I respected. But he was not, just any other man. While attempting to explain our connection, outlined in our family reunion booklet, my soul leaped. His eyes where formidable. My eyes became full. Suddenly, the tears began cascading down my face and onto his suit jacket. A few weeks later, I heard from the lovely Lynn Page. “I have 7 photos for you from a photographer who captured that moment you had with Sidney.” she exclaimed with delight. Just like that, through divine intervention, fragments of that moment was captured. The number 7 meant, perfection. I knew that moment was full circle for me and my ancestry.
To the world he is the first African American actor to win an Academy Award for best actor (Lilies of the Field in 1963). To others he is an inspiration as a director and man who broke the color barriers in the U.S motion picture industry. To me, however, he meant so much more. The stories my grandmother shared about her parents upbringing in the Bahamas and Cat Island, was becoming more clearer. How proud and grateful she was for someone I had never personally met. What he meant to her, to us, to the world was a message wrapped inside the lessons he learned and shared throughout his books. A lasting legacy of hope. He overcame all odds against him. He called me family. Sir Sidney Poitier whispered in my ear. He kissed my hands. He kissed my face. He blessed me. Forever my muse, Cousin Sir Sidney Poitier. Because of Him, we CAN!”
An Excerpt ~ Sidney Poitier The Measure of a Man
Cast Island is forty-six miles long and three miles wide, and even as a small child I was free to roam anywhere. I climbed trees by myself at four and five years old and six and seven years old. I would get attacked by wasps, and I would go home with both eyes closed from having been stung on the face over and over. I would be crying and hollering and screaming and petrified, and my mom would take me and treat me with bush medicines from the old culture that you wouldn’t believe, and then I would venture back out and go down to the water and fish alone.
I would even go in sometimes and swim by myself. I had the confidence, because when I was very small my mother threw me in the ocean and watched without moving as I struggled to survive. She watched as I screamed, yelled, gulped and flailed in a panic stricken effort to stay afloat. She watched as I clawed desperately at the water, unable to manage more than a few seconds before starting to sink beneath the surface. She watches as the ocean swallowed me, second by second. Then mercifully, my father’s hands reached under, fished me out, and handed me back up to my mother…who threw me back in again, and again, and again, until she was convinced that I knew how to swim.