Sidney Poitier

By Zekeh S. Gbotokuma, PhD

As an international student in the 80s in Rome, Italy, I watched, for the first time “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner,” a drama/comedy originally released in the USA on December 12, 1967 (Starring: Spencer Tracy; Sidney Poitier; Katharine Hepburn; Katharine Houghton. Directed by Stanley Kramer). After watching the film, I acquired an additional identity, that is, “Sidney Poitier.” Most of my friends agreed on saying that I looked like the iconic and award-winning actor. The comparison was so true and credible that one day during a bus ride in Rome, an old Italian man stared at me and shouted, “Poitier!” I proudly smiled and jokingly answered, “he (Poitier) is my cousin.” I moved to the U.S. in 1990 and occasionally someone would remind me of my perceived resemblance with the actor. 

In 2007, I joined many bibliophiles and Poitier’s fans in reading his bestselling memoir, THE MEASURE OF A MAN. The reading was a part of OPRAH’s Book Club. There was a prize for the assignment. It consisted of a few (I think 3 or 4) participants meeting and having dinner with Sidney Poitier and Oprah Winfrey. I thought that was my opportunity to meet with the movie super star whom many people said I looked like. I didn’t make it to that dinner. But I decided to turn my summary of the reading into what I call, POITIERISM Or Sidney Poitier’s Ten Commandments. This is a much shorter version of my original work. Poitierism is the creed, so to speak, or the guideline that kept the Hollywood icon, as he put it in his memoir “steady in the wind” in his successful pursuit of the American Dream and happiness. 

On this day of January 7, 2022, as many fellow Americans and I looked forward to some more positive and inspiring news after yesterday’s commemoration of January 6, Trump-inspired Insurrection, we found ourselves shocked and saddened, like millions of people throughout the world, by the death of Sidney Poitier, Oscar-winning actor and Hollywood’s first Black movie star. He was 94. 

I join millions of cinephiles and Poitier fans in mourning, in expressing my condolences to his family and friends, and more importantly, in celebrating his wonderful life. To this end, I am delighted to share Poitier’s Ten Commandments with you. It is based on The Measure of Man. May he rest in peace and entertaining power.

 

  • IDENTITY, AUTHENTICITY & PRIDE: Be yourself; Know yourself; define yourself, and be proud of who you are.

 

  • EDUCATION: “Get an education” (p. 43). Read. Listen.
  • WORK, OPPORTUNITY & EXCELLENCE: “Get out there and work.” “Take whatever opportunities there are, and use them as stepping stones” (43). Do your very best and never give up.
  • SELF-IMPROVEMENT: “Don’t be as good as, be better than; raise the risk level” (234), because “high gains require high risks” (237).
  • COMMITMENT: “Never leave home without a fixed commitment” (43).
  • MONEY: Watch your money. Spend it with mindfulness (216).
  • THE MEASURE OF A MAN: Provide for your family (100).
  • ANGER & FORGIVENESS: Forgive and find positive outlets for anger. Convert the negative & destructive force of anger into a positive and constructive energy (125 & 128).
  • OPPOSITES: Be impartial toward, and respect nature’s duality (yin-yang). “Opposites create energy” (224) via their collision.

 

 

  • SURVIVAL & OPTIMISM: “Prepare for the worse; hope for the best” (80). “As long as there’s life, there’s hope.” “Hopes and dreams are necessary tools to the survival instinct” (227).

Zekeh S. Gbotokuma, PhD is an Associate Professor of Philosophy at Morgan State University & Founding Presidentm Polyglots in Action for Diversity, Inc. (PAD); Author, Democracy and Demographics in the USA” (2020); “Obamanomics and Francisconomics” (Forthcoming, Europe Books). E-mail: zekehgbotokuma@gmail.com

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