Before reading this book, I had only heard of Sidney Poitier as a black actor that open a lot of doors for black actors who followed. He appears to be an intense guy, though I never saw his movies before. (I have queued up a bunch of his movies on my Netflix account.) He is a good looking guy with a good voice; I could see the great acting attributes in him.
After reading this book, I found him a very good critic of himself – able to look at things from a very high level – the God’s (nature’s) view. He is also very non-judgmental, despite all the difficulties he encountered. He carried with him great pride and integrity, instilled in him by his parents, as part of the upbringing in Cat Island, Bahamas. His unwillingness to sign the “loyalty” letter (due to the racism nature) at the risk of not getting a job and being poor showed his great courage and integrity. He also took a lot of risks while trying to survive, like moving out of Bahamas to Florida, and then from Florida to New York. He seemed to have the vision on what he’s capable of becoming – someone great. When the environment turned against him, like in Florida, he was willing and proactive enough to make a change instead of being a victim, not allowing the circumstances to dictate what he can become. This showed a great deal of courage and tenacity.
Poitier’s main legacy, according to him, was his six daughters, who he mentioned only briefly. His troubled daughter, at the end, also showed a lot of Poitier in her by going back to school and getting a degree after being “lost.” Poitier showed a great commitment to his family. I’m certain some of the black actors would give him a lot more credit than that. Not succumbing to the degrading treatment of blacks in the film industry definitely set the tone for the future generation and kick-started the careers of some black actors that followed.
The measure of a man, according to his father and supported by his mother, was to be able to support and bring up his family. The family was very poor by our standard but was rather “happy.” The book ended with the tragic death of his good friend Charley Blackwell, who helped him to write a solo play. How well a person contends with and overcomes human’s imperfections, through nature or circumstances, is perhaps the true measure of a man. As he put it, “we are all imperfect and life is an unending struggle against those imperfections.”