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Poitier and King Were a Team and Shared a Dream

One of my favorite movies of all time is “It’s a Wonderful Life.” If you happen to be one of the few people on the planet that has not seen this Christmas movie, I will tell you about it. This movie plays almost every Christmas on just about every channel, several times a day. It is set in the 1920s about a man name George Bailey. I believe he has just graduated from college; and he is getting ready to leave town and go see the world.

He meets a beautiful young lady named Mary Hatch, who had secretly had a crush on him for years. They get married and then George’s father dies of a stroke. Dad’s number one possession was the Bailey Brothers Building & Loan. Mr. Potter is the villain in my eyes and he wants to close the Building & Loan, making him the only bank in town. Then George stays to keep his dad’s dream alive. When things get bad, (look at the movie to find out what it is), he goes to the river to jump in or thinks about jumping in, but someone jumps in before him. So, he jumps in to save them. They turn out to be an angel, a real angel with no wings. The question comes up, “What if I had never been born?” Would my family have been better off, would my friends have been better off, would my community have been better off?

Maybe that movie gets to me, because I have had those same thoughts. I guess unless we meet an angel with no wings, we may never find out. More important than me, what if Dr. Martin L. King Jr. had never been born? I don’t know about you but my life would have been totally different. I suggest that it does not matter if you are white or black, or any other color, Dr. King made a positive difference in your life whether you recognize it or not.

There have been many articles and will continue to be about the difference that Dr. Martin L. King Jr. made, not just in America, but in the world. I want to talk about those who helped him make the difference. I believe it was Dr. John Maxwell that said, “If you can do something all by yourself and don’t need the help of others for anything, then it’s probably not that great. If you see a turtle on top of a fence post, you know somebody had to help him.” It takes team work to make the dream work.

Dr. King is to be honored because he had the vision or the dream. He is the one that took the chances to do something great. Yet he still needed others to help him. Helen Keller once said, “I cannot do everything, but I can do something. I must not fail to do the something that I can do.” Dr. King did the thing he could do, but there was help!

I wish I could give honor to them all individually. You might be one of them that marched with him, supported him, or prayed for him. Thank you for whatever part you played.

Today, I want to talk about Sidney Poitier, 2/20/27 – 1/6/22. Would we have ever heard of Denzel Washington, Morgan Freeman, Richard Pryor, Eddie Murphy, Samuel L. Jackson, Whoopi Goldberg, Diahann Carroll, Pam Grier, Cicely Tyson, Viola Davis, Halle Berry if it was not for Sidney Poitier? Let me throw in one more name, Dr. Martin L. King, Jr. I am not saying he was the only one or the most important, but he was someone who marched with him, financially supported him we are told, and helped him in every way he could. He was a part of the team.

Sidney Poitier was a native of Cat Island, Bahamas. He was born in Miami during a visit by his parents. His birth was a premature birth approximately two months early. His mother Evelyn and father Reginald Poitier worked a farm and suffered in deep poverty.

No wonder the last job he had before becoming an actor was a dishwasher. He tried out for the American Negro Theater and had a successful audition. His first leading role on Broadway was in “Lysistrata.” Remember this is all taking place in the 1950s and times were much different then they are now. One of his most famous roles was in 1959, in the movie, “A Raisin in the Sun.” It has been done several times now, but he was in the very first production. Another film around the same time was, “Porgy & Bess” with Dorothy Dandridge. He would become the first African American to win the Oscar for Best Actor. He did “The Defiant Ones” with Tony Curtis, about two escaped prisoners, one white and one black, chained together, and they must find a way to survive. In 1967 it was “In the Heat of the Night” about a black detective, solving a murder case in a town in Mississippi, and the challenges he faced as black man. “Lilies of the Field,” was the movie he won an Oscar for about a black handyman helping a group of nuns.

What he was not always recognized for was being a civil rights activist. He supported the Poor People’s Campaign and helped with the March On Washington. In 1967, the year before Dr. King was assassinated, Dr. King introduced the keynote speaker for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. He called him my Soul Brother, my friend, and a friend to humanity, that man was Sidney Poitier. Sidney Poitier refused to play black stereotypes of that day. Both Dr. King and Sidney Poitier were men of integrity. Sidney Poitier was part of Dr. King’s Prayer Pilgrimage; he also attended and supported his funeral. Some believe he was part of the team that would help raise bail for Dr. King and his supporters when they were in need.

In one speech Sidney Poitier said, “Dr. King helped make me a better man.” The same season that Sidney Poitier won his Oscar was the same time Dr. King won his Nobel Peace Prize. Some have called him the Dr. Martin L. King of the movies, or was it the reverse. In 2009, he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barrack Obama.

I am glad Dr. King was born, and I am also glad Sidney Poitier was born. They needed each other to do something great. I am also thankful for those that were born who are on my team. Together we will do great things.

The Rev. Darrell W. Cummings is pastor of Bethlehem Apostolic Temple in Wheeling and Shiloh Apostolic Temple in Weirton.

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