Tributes are pouring in for Oscar-winning actor, director, civil rights activist, and humanitarian Sidney Poitier, who has died at age 94.
Among those was one from Halle Berry, whose Oscar win made her the first Black woman to win such an award in her category, paralleling Poitier’s own history-making 1964 win. After the actor’s death on Thursday, Berry took to Instagram on Friday to pay tribute to him for his extraordinary life and acclaimed career.
The two stars share an important connection, as Poitier became the first Black man to win the Best Actor Oscar in 1964, for his work in Lilies of the Field. Whereas, Halle Berry made history at the Oscars on March 24, 2002, when the Monster’s Ball star became the first Black woman to win Best Actress.
“‘A tiny bit of myself is lost when my friends are gone,’ Sidney Poitier wrote in his book LIFE BEYOND MEASURE. My dear Sidney, an enormous part of my soul weeps at your passing,” Halle Berry wrote in her post, next to a black and white portrait of the two. “In your ninety-four years on this planet, you left an indelible mark with your extraordinary talent, paving the way for Black people to be seen and heard in the fullness of who we are. You were an iconic trailblazer; yours was a life well lived.”
“I grew up idolizing you and will always remember the day when I first met you,” she continued. “It is the only time in my life when I’ve been rendered speechless! There I sat, with my words glued together, and you were as gracious and charming then as you would be during our decades of friendship to follow. Rest in peace, beloved Sidney. You are and always will be the true measure of a man.”
When Sidney Poitier received the award at the 74th Academy Awards to celebrate his “remarkable accomplishments as an artist and as a human being,” Poitier walked onstage and began his speech by reflecting on his start in the film industry.
“I arrived in Hollywood at the age of 22 in a time different than today’s, a time in which the odds against my standing here tonight 53 years later would not have fallen in my favor,” he said at the time. “Back then, no route had been established for where I was hoping to go, no pathway left in evidence for me to trace, no custom for me to follow.”
“Yet, here I am this evening at the end of a journey that in 1949 would have been considered almost impossible and in fact might never have been set in motion were there not an untold number of courageous, unselfish choices made by a handful of visionary American filmmakers, directors, writers and producers,” he continued.
The actor commended the people he’d worked with for their “strong sense of citizenship responsibility to the times in which they lived,” noting that they were “each unafraid to permit their art to reflect their views and values, ethical and moral, and moreover, acknowledge them as their own.”
“They knew the odds that stood against them and their efforts were overwhelming and likely could have proven too high to overcome,” he said. “Still those filmmakers persevered, speaking through their art to the best in all of us. And I’ve benefited from their effort. The industry benefited from their effort. America benefited from their effort. And in ways large and small the world has also benefited from their effort.”
Poitier went on to add, “I accept this award in memory of all the African-American actors and actresses who went before me in the difficult years, on whose shoulders I was privileged to stand to see where I might go.”