Artists of color thank Sidney Poitier for pioneering diversity work

Acclaimed director Quincy Jones has paid tribute to Sidney Poitier on behalf of American artists of color, thanking him for his pioneering work to drive diversity within the industry.

Celebrities including Halle Berry, Lenny Kravitz, Mariah Carey and Viola Davis were among those who shared memories of the “iconic trailblazer.”

The Bahamian-American actor, the first black person to win an Oscar for Best Actor, has died at the age of 94.

Jones, 88, said losing Poitier was like “losing a piece of myself” because I remembered the “countless hours” they spent together.

In a lengthy tribute to the actor online, he said: “We were joined at the hip from our time, to come to New York in the ’50s, to stand to achieve all our dreams and to work together in Hollywood. To use our voices in support of the things that really matter.

“From those due-paying days in New York when I produced the Academy Awards in 1996, when you presented the Best Picture category, you were always Sydney to me.

“Through thick and thin we shared together the highest peaks and lowest valleys of life.

“You were there for me in the darkest moments of my life, always there for me in my corner.”

Jones said that Poitier had “a majesty that no actor could ever accept” and one that could not be changed.

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He added: “I will always miss you my dear brother … and when I feel that my soul needs to smile, I will think of you and sharing the memories of our decades together.”

Actress Halle Berry said Poitier has made an “indelible mark” and “paved the way” for black people.

“My dear Sydney, a great deal of my soul cries at your passing,” she tweeted.

“In your eighty-four years on this planet, you left an indelible mark with your extraordinary talent, paving the way for black people to see and be heard in the fullness of who we are.

“You were an iconic trailblazer; Your life was well lived.

“I grew up taking you as my role model and will always remember the day I first met you. This is the only time in my life I’ve been speechless!

“There I sat, my words glued together, and you were as kind and charming as you will be during our decades of friendship.

“Rest in peace, dear Sydney. You are the true measure of a man and always will be.”

American rock musician Lenny Kravitz said the actor “opened the doors” as he paid tribute to the “Bahamian King”.

Sharing pictures with the actor, she said: “Sir #SidneyPoitier, your brilliant light will never go down,” he wrote.

“The doors you opened and the paths you created will continue to pave the way for dreamers. You showed the world that everything is possible with vision and grace.

“Your excellence will always be the benchmark.

Rest in divine peace, Bahamian King. My love and condolences are with your beautiful family.”

Poet Amanda Gorman, who rose to fame in January 2021 after a reading at US President Joe Biden’s inauguration ceremony, said she “given her voice” to Poitier.

“#SidneyPoitier was a pioneer for artists of color everywhere,” wrote the 23-year-old.

“At the age of 9 I read that he imitated broadcasters because he was ridiculed for his accent. That’s what I did for the next 10 years to overcome my own speech impediment.

“I owe my voice to him.

“Never doubt that representation matters.”

Actress Viola Davis described his death as “a big one”.

She wrote on Twitter: “No words can describe how your work fundamentally changed my life. The dignity, normalcy, strength, excellence and the power you brought to your roles showed us what Black people deserve. As we matter!!!

“It was an honor for my husband and I to share lunch with you at Spagos. You told us, ‘If your dreams don’t scare you, they’re not big enough’!

“I put this quote on my daughter’s wall. Rest easy Mr. Poitier. Thank you! Thank you for leaving a legacy. Let the flights of angels sing to you for your rest.”

James Bond franchise star Jeffrey Wright said: “Sydney Poitier. What a milestone actor. One of his kind. What a handsome, gracious, warm, truly majestic man. RIP, sir. With love.”

Singer Mariah Carey said she would be “blessed forever” with memories of the conversation she had with Poitier.

“Beyond his unique talent and devotion to change the world, to me he was also a divine, pure soul who took the time to care, talk, help and heal others selflessly,” she said.

“I am forever blessed by the memories of our conversation. Rest in Power and Peace Sir Sidney Poitier.”

Singing legend Diana Ross also offered her condolences to Poitier’s family and shared a black and white photo of her and the actor, saying: “A wonderful, great man, will always be remembered.”