Aged 94, a powerful totem topples; actor, director, activist,

And exemplar of the Black is beautiful creed in and out;

The great Sidney Poitier dies, taking that elegant name 

Across borders that we are yet to understand, while his charting 

Of the terrain we should know saw truth shout. 


As a Civil Rights crusader, his art proved his first point of protest. 

From No Way Out, each new movie signalled his own circumstance;

Bahamian bred, he was actually born in Miami, with his parents there 

To sell reared tomatoes we heard the first roar of defiance, 

And saw the former British Colony escaped by pure chance. 

Then Cry the Beloved Country loudly wept as the apartheid alarm 

Pierced soft silence, and his own resolve hardened to use acting 

Itself for the good; not for a career, but for the care of his people; 

As it was for their representation  that he sought to rise and rouse 

Neighbourhoods. And while The Blackboard Jungle birthed rock, 

And aimed to understand  the delinquent, the roll in the music 

Saw no moss gained on his path; from Edge of the City’s harsh streets, 

To being tied to Tony Curtis on train tracks;  each appearance 

Was advance and emblem and concentration, too, on the task; 

Chiefly to effect change through Art, whether  

In the Heat of the Night’s famously retaliatory slap, 

Or at that infamous dinner table; from where A Raisin in the Sun 

Could be savoured, to A Patch of Blue and the first interracial 

Pre-Kirk kiss onscreen, Poitier was that celluloid kisser caught 

As he reflected back misted mirrors to cast a burning light 

On his era, and like his Mr Tibbs, seek distinctions 

Between what Social Injustice is and then means. 

If he had done nothing else than these films then we should 

Mourn and remember this hero, who made his stance seismic 

As he historically rewrote the book. Even Robeson and Belafonte 

Had songs with which to enrich their presence.  


Poitier had only acting’s traditions to try to denounce 

With one look. But he was there with the greats who influenced 

Modern culture; activists in art and advances in perspective, 

Pain, power, and Politics. From Civil rights to social wrongs, 

The list’s endless, as we mourn Dr Martin Luther King, 

Rodney also, George Floyd, Trayvon Martin, and all those 

Who suffered at the hands of the KKK’s gruesome kicks. 

As those and other tragic victims were lost in his time, 

Poitier’s position proved vanguard, along with the Artists 

Who exemplified the profound. From Miles Davis, 


John Coltrane, Otis Redding, Sammy and Ossie Davis, 

Charlie Parker,  Billie Holliday, Little Richard, Chuck Berry, 

Nina Simone, and James Brown, to Mingus and Monk, 

Nat King Cole, Louis Armstrong, Robert Johnson, 

And Hendrix; each of these shared the crown. Cry the Beloved 

Country, indeed, for it may it not be the one you now 

Live in. Poitier was an actor who exposed on film 

Every challenge and taught us all how to be, through his poise, 

His regard and the energies unleashed on us, he was 

Human nature as nation, as belief released territory. 

When trends turned, he changed, using comedy 

As his vehicle; last gifts to the public after the former force 

Of intent. Politics saw him steer a singular ship for the sailing, 

As Bahamian Ambassador to Japan towards the circles 

Of diplomacy centred around UNESCO’s need to invent 

A more balanced world. Poitier influenced and then 

Equalled. He paved a clear way for Pryor,  just as he did 

For Denzel. For Morgan Freeman, Chadwick Boseman 

Ad Samuel Jackson, to today’s equivalents; each nation 

Has theirs who compel. But Poitier was the first to claim 

Mass attention. I can’t contain in one poem every person 

To prize.  All I dare do is point towards another star lost 

To darkness; as we focus on these bright fires 

Who time can never douse, only rise.

                                                                                David Erdos 1/7/22   

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