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Sidney Poitier, trailblazing Black film actor and activist, dies at 94

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The pioneering thespian became the first Black star nominated for an Academy Award with 1958's "The Defiant Ones" and, six years later, was the first to win the best actor Oscar for his performance in "Lilies of the Field."Poitier, whose death was announced by the government of the Bahamas, held dual US and Bahamian nationality. He achieved mainstream popularity with a series of groundbreaking roles at a time of great racial tension in America in the 1950s and 1960s.Poitier was awarded an honorary Oscar in 2002 for his "extraordinary performances" on the silver screen and his "dignity, style and intelligence" off of it.Poitier also praised the "visionary choices of a handful of American" producers, directors and studio bosses who were not afraid to stand up for the cause of equality, despite the difficulties such a stance may have caused them.By coincidence, Washington became the second Black best actor winner that same night in 2002, which also saw Halle Berry become the first — and only — African American best actress winner."There's nothing I would rather do, sir."As a youth, he got his first taste of the cinema on his Caribbean island before dropping out of school at the age of 13 and returning to Miami when he was 15 to join his brother Cyril.Poitier soon relocated to New York where he worked as a dishwasher and busboy, reportedly sleeping in bus station pay toilets as he tried to scratch out a meager existence in the tough city.Poitier worked to lose his Caribbean lilt and adopt an American accent, which earned him his first stage acting job as an understudy to singing star Harry Belafonte in 1945's "Days of Our Youth," before making his Broadway debut in an all-Black production of "Lysistrata."In 1950, the thriving young actor starred in his first film, "No Way Out," quickly followed by classics such as "Blackboard Jungle" and "Edge of the City."Through the late 1970s and 1980s, Poitier moved behind the camera to direct, casting Black actors in traditionally white roles, before switching to light-hearted comedies featuring Gene Wilder ("Stir Crazy") and Bill Cosby ("Ghost Dad").On television, he portrayed icons of history such as South Africa's first black president, Nelson Mandela, and the first Black justice on the US Supreme Court, Thurgood Marshall.He was awarded the US Presidential Medal of Freedom — the country's highest civilian honor — by Barack Obama in 2009.amz/sst/dw…

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Continue Reading News Story. Published by Canada Central Press Syndicate. For feedback write to Amnon Jakony, Founding Editor/Publisher - amnon [at] Thanks for reading.

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