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Hollywood pioneer Sidney Poitier dies aged 94

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Sidney Poitier is the first black man to win a best actor Oscar
Sidney Poitier is the first black man to win a best actor Oscar

Sidney Poitier, the first black man to win a best actor Oscar, has died at 94.

The Hollywood star’s death was confirmed to the BBC by the office of Fred Mitchell, the Bahamas’ minister of foreign affairs.

Poitier was a trailblazing actor and a respected humanitarian and diplomat. He won the Academy Award for best actor for Lilies of the Field in 1963.

Former US President Barack Obama said Poitier “epitomised dignity and grace” and had “singular talent”.

He added that the actor revealed “the power of movies to bring us closer together” and “opened doors for a generation of actors”.

US broadcaster and journalist Oprah Winfrey also paid tribute, saying: “For me the greatest of the ‘Great Trees’ has fallen,” adding the actor “had an enormous soul I will forever cherish”.

Born in Miami, Poitier grew up on a tomato farm in the Bahamas and moved to New York aged 16.

He signed up for a short stint in the army and did several odd jobs while taking acting lessons, en route to becoming a star of the stage and screen in the 1950s and 60s.

Poitier broke racial barriers in Hollywood. His appearance in The Defiant Ones in 1958 earned him his first Oscar nomination – in itself a historic achievement for a black man in a lead category at the time.

Five years later he went one better, taking the glory for Lilies of the Field, in which he played a handyman who helps German nuns to build a chapel in the desert.

Speaking on a live Facebook stream on Friday, The Prime Minister of the Bahamas, Philip Davis said: “Our whole Bahamas grieves. But even as we mourn, we celebrate the life of a great Bahamian.”

He added: “His strength of character, his willingness to stand up and be counted and the way he plotted and navigated his life’s journey.

“The boy who moved from the tomato farm to become a waiter in the United States, a young man who not only taught himself to read and write, but who made the expression of words and thoughts and feelings central to his career.”

Sidney Poitier in In The Heat of the Night
One of his most powerful roles was Virgil Tibbs in the film In the Heat of the Night

The actor was a regular on the big screen at a time of racial segregation in the US, appearing in a Patch of Blue in 1965, and then Heat of the Night the year after, followed by Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, playing a black man with a white fiancée.

In Heat of the Night he portrayed Virgil Tibbs, a black police officer confronting racism during a murder investigation.

His other classic films included A Patch of Blue, The Blackboard Jungle and A Raisin in the Sun, which he also performed on Broadway.

He went on to direct a raft of films, and a Broadway play about life and career was announced last month.

‘Tackled racism head on’

Empire magazine’s Amon Warmann told the BBC: “He was a pioneer, he’s so influential and paved the way for so many in the industry to make their own mark, not least Denzel Washington, who paid tribute to him when he won an Oscar.”

Washington, who won an Oscar in 2002 on the same night Poitier won an honorary Oscar, joked as he said: “Forty years I’ve been chasing Sidney and what do they do – they go and give it to him in the same night.”

Warmann added that Poitier “tackled racism head on” in his work but was also “so versatile”.

“He really helped change the game for how black actors were viewed at that time [of his Oscar win]. He was one of the biggest stars during that period.”

Viola Davis, the first black American to win an Oscar, an Emmy and a Tony Award, said: “No words can describe how your work radically shifted my life.”

Star Trek actor George Takei paid tribute, calling the actor “a trailblazer who will be mourned by so many for whom he opened the very doors of Hollywood”.

James Bond and Westworld actor Jeffrey Wright added that Poitier was a “landmark actor”.

Actress Whoopi Goldberg quoted the lyrics to the song To Sir With Love, which soundtracked Poitier’s 1967 film. “He showed us how to reach for the stars,” she noted, while actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt called him an “an absolute legend“.

In an interview in 2000, Winfrey put it to Poitier that, as producer Quincy Jones had noted, he had “created and defined the African-American in film”.

“It’s been an enormous responsibility,” Poitier replied. “And I accepted it, and I lived in a way that showed how I respected that responsibility.

“I had to. In order for others to come behind me, there were certain things I had to do.”

Sidney Poitier
Poitier tackled racism in his films

Author and historian Donald Bogle spoke in a Turner Classic Movies YouTube film about the heights the actor reached during his career.

“Poitier in the 60s is this big star and he’s the only dramatic black actor who works continually in these leading roles and he has big films,” he said.

Screenwriter Richard Wesley added: “At that time, there was a social need for a character like Sidney Poitier. The social changes that were being wrought by the civil rights movement were demanding a different kind of conversation, interaction and introspection on the part of black and white people in America at that time.

“Sidney Poitier’s characterisations on screen were part of that conversation – and they were a necessary part of that conversation.”

US filmmaker Ava DuVernay also paid her respects online.

Poitier became the first black actor to receive a life achievement award from the American Film Institute in 1992.

Five years later, he was appointed the Bahamas’ ambassador to Japan and he received a knighthood from the Queen in 1974.

As a Bahamian citizen he was eligible for a substantive knighthood, but given he was a US resident and Bahamian by descent the Bahamian authorities preferred it to be an honorary award.

He was married twice and had six children.

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FRSC personnel helped pregnant on transit to safe childbirth

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FRSC spokesperson Bisi Kazeem
FRSC spokesperson, Bisi Kazeem

The Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) said some of its officers at the Mowe unit of the Ogun State Sector Command on Friday helped an expectant mother on transit to a safe childbirth.

A statement by Mr Bisi Kazeem, the Corps Public Education Officer (CPEO) on Saturday said that the assistance became imperative as it saved the lives of the mother and child.

According to him, while on patrol at Mowe, the team, led by Deputy Route Commander (DRC) Damilola Osiyemi of Mowe Unit Command assisted a woman who was in labour around 1430hours on Friday.

“The woman, Mrs Ola of No 7, Aiyegbami street in Sagamu, boarded a vehicle with Reg No: FKJ 904 HE from Sagamu.

“She was sighted in labour and she was later rushed to Broad Life Hospital, Olowotedo near NASFAT area, Mowe Ogun State by the team where she was later delivered of a baby girl,” the statement said.

It added that the command would not relent in its determination to do anything that would safeguard the lives and property of the residents of Ogun on the road and Nigeria at large.

The statement urged all motorists to desist from breaking traffic rules and regulations to reduce traffic congestion.

It also called on motorists to feel free to seek help from FRSC personnel operating on the highway whenever the need arises.

(NAN)

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‘After I Tore My Card, I Ceased To Be A Member’, Obasanjo Tells PDP

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edc55d20 olusegun obasanjo

Former President Olusegun Obasanjo told leaders of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), has maintained he is no longer a member of the party from the day he tore his membership card.

Addressing a PDP delegation led by the National Chairman of the party, Iyorchia Ayu, four former governors, and members of the party’s National Working Committee visited him at his residence in Abeokuta, Ogun State on Saturday, he won’t stop dishing advice to anyone who approaches him in the interest of Nigeria

Addressing the PDP delegation, Obasanjo said: “I’m no longer in partisan politics and there is nothing that can bring back. Anybody who wants my advice, I will always be there in the best interest of Nigeria.

“Whatever I do in my own life…because I became president on the platform of PDP, PDP will continue to be part of my life. Since the day I tore my PDP card, that was the day I ceased to be a member of PDP. That day I vowed not to be a member of any political party.

“I will continue to be a statesman.”

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HELP! Hole-in-heart Patient, Ramadan Seeks N6m For Urgent Surgery

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A boy with three holes in the heart, Ramadan Tolani, urgently needs N6 million for chest infection surgery.

The surgery, according to medical experts, could only be done either at the Babcock University Teaching Hospital or India. However, the family considering the financial constraints of obtaining a visa and other logistics, resorted to doing the surgery at Babcock university here in Nigeria.

The young boy according to a medical report signed by the management of Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH), is currently on anti failure medication.

The report further implores Nigerians to accord him necessary assistance.

Ramadan was found to be centrally diagnosed with oxygen saturation values in room air between 77-45 per cent.

“Examination of the cardiovascular systems revealed a heart rate of 135bmp; with a prude 3/6 pansystolic murmur loudest at the left lower sternal border.”

The report revealed that echocardiography was done on January 6, 2021, and it revealed that Ramadan has three holes in the heart namely;  Secundum ASD, right partial anomalous pulmonary venous connection and moderate PAH.

It further states that he was presented on account of recurrent chest infections noticed from birth. Mrs Mayalleke Tolani,  Ramadan’s mother while pleading with Nigerians to come to her aid, explained how she has been facing endless difficulties since she gave birth to the boy. Last November, LASUTH told Tolani her son was due for the operation.

If you are touched by Ramadan’s plight, please send your donations to: Bank – Wema, Account Number – 0253889676 Account Name – Ramadan Shedrack Mayaleke

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