Poitier was the first black man I fell in love with. Black boys and men were a rarity when I was growing up in Canada in the sixties. In middle school in Niagara Falls, George Bell was the only black boy on campus, period, an outsider. It was 1967 and I was 13 when I saw Sydney Poitier in the now classic To Sir with Love. Everything about the drama called out to me.
Based on the book by Rick Braithwaite, a former Royal Air Force pilot and Cambridge-trained engineer, about his own experience teaching in the London slums, To Sir with Love got no love from the Academy. Back then an Oscar nomination for a black actor was as rare as a George Bell sighting in my neighborhood. Poitier, perfectly beautiful, talented Sydney Poitier, has won only one Oscar in his entire career, Best Actor for the 1963 film Lilies of the Field. He was the first black actor to win an Oscar, a feat that wouldn’t be repeated until 2001 when Denzel Washington took home the Academy Award for Training Day, 38 years later. 38 years! It makes me realize that #OscarSoWhite will stay a ‘thing’ until things really change.
Here's the trailer for To Sir with Love.
Below is the final scene from the movie. If you’ve seen the To Sir with Love chances are that scene with Lulu singing the Grammy-nominated hit song will make you a little weepy. If you haven’t seen the film, it’s today’s Saturday Matinee, available to stream on Amazon, YouTube, iTunes, Vudu, and Google-Play.
To Sydney Poitier, with love.