Emotional Sidney Poitier chokes up as he recalls kind Jewish waiter who taught him to read as a boy



Poitier stated that he regrets not having had the opportunity to express gratitude to the server for his assistance. It was already too late, he reflected.

WATCH: Sidney Poitier, who passed away this weekend at age 94, chokes up as he tells Lesley Stahl about the elderly Jewish waiter who taught him to read, enabling his acting career to take off pic.twitter.com/MPkDynlFYU

— Avi Mayer (@AviMayer) January 9, 2022


In January 2022, Sidney Poitier, at 94 years old, passed suddenly, leaving the world of one of its greatest performers. Poitier was the first Black cinema star in Hollywood and the first Black man to get an Oscar for best actor. The Bahamas-born actor, director, and civil rights figure arrived in New York with aspirations of becoming a successful actor but was hindered by his inability to read. Poitier claimed that a friendly waiter took the initiative to teach him how to read. As he described the incident to Lesley Stahl on CBS Sunday Morning, Poitier became upset.
After landing in New York, Poitier was making ends meet by washing dishes at a restaurant. When a Jewish man questioned him about the news during one of his shifts when he was bringing newspapers, Poitier said he couldn’t tell him since the man couldn’t read. “As I sit there, I’m reading a newspaper. And an old Jewish waiter who was seated at the table noticed me while I was there, Poitier recounted in the episode. He stood at the table close to the kitchen and said, “Hello.’ He got up and walked over. What is fresh in the newspapers? ‘I can’t tell you what’s new in the papers since I can’t read very well,’ I told him. I had very little formal schooling.

“Would you like me to read with you, he asked? I said, “Yes, if you’d want to,” to him. Poitier said that after his work shift ended, he sat down with him “every night” to instruct him. Poitier fought back tears as he thought back on the compassion of a guy who taught him despite having absolutely nothing to gain from it. Every evening after that, Poitier said, “he would come over and sit with me and he would explain me what a comma is and why it exists, what periods are, what colons are, what dashes are.” He would instruct me on the existence of syllables, how to recognize them inside a single word, and how to pronounce each one. Every night,” the actor, who was visibly moved, stated.
Poitier continued by saying that it gradually altered the course of his life, both as a person and as an actor. But he still had one regret. On an episode of the podcast “What It Takes,” Poitier remarked, “One of my greatest regrets in life is that I went on to be a very successful actor, and one day I tried to find him, but it was too late, and I regret that I never got the opportunity to truly thank him.” In appearances with Oprah, on “60 Minutes,” and in speeches during award ceremonies, the actor has also praised the friendly Jewish waiter.

You opened the door for us all. We will forever speak your name, #SidneyPoitier! ❤️🕊 pic.twitter.com/WycHpmzoG3

— Debbie Allen (@msdebbieallen) January 7, 2022

Poitier would go on to become one of Hollywood’s biggest stars and unquestionably the first Black actor in a major motion picture. Before that, Black people could only be seen in minor roles in movies that were distributed in conservative parts of America. You couldn’t take Sidney Poitier out of a Sidney Poitier picture, as Denzel Washington so well phrased it. A movie was produced because of him. the first single African-American movie star, above the title. He was special. For his role as an itinerant worker who aids a group of White nuns in building a church in the movie “Lilies of the Field,” Poitier received an Oscar.

When thinking about Sidney Poitier, my mind goes to In the Heat of the Night. He once said that he joined the film on the condition that Tibbs could slap Endicott back. The scene represented the tensions of the time, and it was huge for the culture.

RIP to a true trailblazer. pic.twitter.com/nv6D4hZ4iW

— Erik Swann (@SwannErik) January 7, 2022

After receiving an honorary Oscar in 2002 for his contributions to film, Poitier spoke on his path and its significance. “I came to Hollywood at the age of 22 at a time that was different from today’s, a time when the chances of me being here here tonight 53 years later were not in my favor. Back then, there was no set road leading to the destination I hoped to reach, no trail left behind for me to follow, and no tradition for me to adopt, he added, according to The Guardian. “Yet, here I am this evening at the culmination of a voyage that in 1949 would have been deemed practically impossible and, in fact, would never have been put in motion,” he stated before mentioning several of the innovative American film-makers, directors, writers, and producers who helped him on his way.

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