Should I be a part of it? The story of Sidney Poitier
It is difficult to know to what extent we should refuse or accept to be a part of a project – that is, will this project create conflict in my relationship with God? If we have a concern we must first speak with our spiritual father or local priest for instruction. However, I also want to tell you a powerful and inspirational story told to me by my spiritual father of the Oscar winning actor Sidney Poitier. Even before becoming one of the most respected actors of our time Mr Poitier was very selective of any acting roles presented to him. Despite being a talented actor he rejected many film roles even when he desperately needed the money to buy food. His reason for choosing to live in poverty despite all these opportunities – he refused to be involved in a film which subjected his fellow African-Americans to the stereotypes of his time. All these ‘golden’ opportunities to star on the silver screen would have meant endorsing the racist and unjust attitudes towards African-Americans. When offered the leading role in one of his most famous films, ‘To Sir, with love’, Mr Poitier accepted. Using this ONE opportunity he became associated with one of the most well-known and influential films of the 20th century. By appearing in this film Mr Poitier was showing to the world African-Americans were talented actors capable of powerful leading roles. He took a stance against what was wrong and corrupt in society and simply said ‘No’ to the opportunities offered by the movie industry. Although this is more of a principle than a moral, my spiritual father told me this story as an example when deciding whether to be involved in a project. In short, one meaning of this story – not to say ‘yes’ then regret your decision as you will have to live with it. If Mr Poitier accepted one of the earlier offers all he would have done was give approval to filmmakers and studios that there would always be black actors willing to endorse negative attitudes.
I have always referred back to this story when deciding if I wanted to be involved or associated with a particular artist and/or project – because if we say ‘yes’ we are supporting something which may have a negative effect on the world, and our souls. Thanks to people like Sidney Poitier, Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jnr their choices and actions have made this world a better place. In Christ.