To Sir Sidney, with love

Sir Sidney Poitier has left us.

He was a towering giant of a man who changed the world and left it better than he found it.

He made history and changed the discourse of race not only in the United States, but around the world, when he won the Academy Award for best actor in 1964.

His presence in film and in activism in the United States also sparked greater activism for racial equality in The Bahamas, not to mention the critical role he played in the struggle for Majority Rule.

Though he left The Bahamas after independence to reside in Hollywood, his presence was always felt at home and he remained close to many who remained here.

It was with sadness that we recall the Bahamians who were upset that the government would name a bridge after him.

It was with even more sadness that we heard after his passing the view expressed by some that Sir Sidney should have done more for The Bahamas, while ignoring the gargantuan contribution he made.

He has given us much more than we gave him.

Sir Sidney could have rested on his laurels as a famous actor — at one point the highest-paid actor in the world.

But his Bahamian upbringing undergirded his values and morals, and he did not abandon his people.

He was ours, and he was loved fiercely by those who understood how important he was.

As a nation, we have failed him, as we have failed so many, by not explaining to generations not of the Majority Rule era how impactful his life was.

We should not squander the opportunity to demonstrate his valuable example of activism and dedication to country.

Having just celebrated Majority Rule Day, one cannot help but reflect on what those who have left us, whose struggle brought Majority Rule about would think of The Bahamas we have today.

On the one hand, we suppose they would marvel at the great things those who came behind have achieved, and on the other, weep that so many seem to have forgotten what their movement achieved.

There are far too many among us for whom the notions of national service and sacrifice are something they expect of others.

There are many who believe that the responsibility to build a country rests with the policymakers and the bureaucrats.

So many have given so much, like Sir Sidney, to bring The Bahamas to where it is today, and we dishonor their contributions by opting out when it comes to further developing this great country.

Many have become caught up in believing our personal circumstances are the failure of everybody but ourselves despite our personal choices.

We have developed a nation of too many people who do not understand the value of education and family planning and commitment to service.

Many have been made cynical by political chicanery that has often placed party allegiance over qualifications.

And many seem to have lost clarity on the fact that nations are built by those in society working together, not by people working only in their own self-interest.

Routinely, we hear on radio talk shows, contributors and callers blaming others for their woes – those of other races, those from other countries, those who have more than they do.

But all is not lost; far from it.

We can point to Bahamians who have excelled in almost every field in almost every corner of the globe.

We can point to our robust public education system, our commitment to expanding our healthcare system, and our continued expansion of our infrastructure and economy and look at them with pride.

There are police officers who still put their lives on the line every day to keep The Bahamas safe.

There are those who offer for public service on the political and bureaucratic levels who do so with the best of intentions to make the country better.

The volunteers who help those less fortunate, the pastors who counsel those who are troubled, the charities that stand in the gap, and the Bahamians and residents who do their best to live good, meaningful lives show that we can make our country better – all these and more – show that Sir Sidney had much to look on with pride.

We have no shortage of challenges today, but The Bahamas is still a great place to live with no shortage of possibilities either.

The death of Sir Sidney is a chance to both reflect on the life of a remarkable man and a reminder of how we can all contribute to positive change.

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