Barack Obama, Viola Davis, Questlove Honor Sidney Poitier - Rolling Stone
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Sidney Poitier Tributes Pour In From Denzel Washington, Barack Obama, Viola Davis and More

Morgan Freeman, Oprah, Lenny Kravitz also remember the trailblazing actor, who died at age 94

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Sidney Poitier in 2014.

Larry Busacca/VF14/Getty Images

Viola Davis, Barack Obama, Questlove and more have shared tributes to the groundbreaking actor Sidney Poitier, who died Friday at the age of 94. 

Davis, in a moving post on Instagram, wrote about how Poitier’s work “radically shifted my life,” adding, “The dignity, normalcy, strength, excellence and sheer electricity you brought to your roles showed us that we, as Black folks, mattered! It was an honor for my husband and I to share lunch with you at Spagos. You told us,’If your dreams do not scare you, they’re not big enough!’ I put this quote on my daughter’s wall.”

Former president Obama, who awarded Poitier the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009, shared a photo from that ceremony on Twitter, and said, “Through his groundbreaking roles and singular talent, Sidney Poitier epitomized dignity and grace, revealing the power of movies to bring us closer together. He also opened doors for a generation of actors. Michelle and I send our love to his family and legion of fans.”

In a statement shared with the The Hollywood ReporterDenzel Washington — who became the second Black man to win a Best Actor Oscar in 2002, 38 years after Poitier became the first in 1963 — said, “It was a privilege to call Sidney Poitier my friend. He was a gentle man and opened doors for all of us that had been closed for years. God bless him and his family.”

Harry Belafonte, one of Poitier’s peers in acting and activism, said, “For over 80 years, Sidney and I laughed, cried and made as much mischief as we could. He was truly my brother and partner in trying to make this world a little better. He certainly made mine a whole lot better.”

Motown founder Berry Gordy said in a statement to Rolling Stone, “Today, the world has lost an icon, and I have lost one of my dearest friends, the great Sidney Poitier.  He was a man of grace, integrity and someone I long admired.  He is in a class by himself. He adored his family and friends, and my condolences go out to his incredible wife, Joanna, and his beautiful girls.”

Questlove, meanwhile, praised “King Sidney” and noted that Poitier’s 1974 film, Uptown Saturday Night, was one of the first movies he ever saw. “You already know I can spew paragraphs of what his activism represented especially in a time that his accolades were happening during the civil rights era,” Questlove said, “but man this is more of a personal reflect because of the bonding his 70s movies did for my family & I.”

Other tributes poured in from actors like Whoopi Goldberg, Jeffrey Wright, and Wendell Pierce. Morgan Freeman called Poitier, “my inspiration, my guiding light, my friend,” and Taraji P. Henson wrote, “‘Thank you’ will never be enough for your blood sweat tears and determination… We will tell the generations to come about your legacy!”

Colman Domingo recalled getting to meet the actor at a special event hosted by Oprah Winfrey: “He was kind and warm. That gracious smile. I didn’t tell him all that I wanted to say which would take hours and days. That, when I saw him, I saw the artist that I could be… I just watched him stand upon his ideals of creating tremendous art. Comedy, Drama, Theater, Directing, Producing, and always standing up for civil and human rights. Living fully.”

Oprah issued a touching tribute of her own, too, writing, “For me, the greatest of the ‘Great Trees’ has fallen: Sidney Poitier. My honor to have loved him as a mentor. Friend. Brother. Confidant. Wisdom teacher. The utmost, highest regard and praise for his most magnificent, gracious, eloquent life. I treasured him. I adored him. He had an enormous soul I will forever cherish.”

Lenny Kravitz paid tribute, too, posting on Twitter: “Sir #SidneyPoitier, your brilliant light will never dim. The doors you opened and paths you created will continue to make way for those with a dream. You showed the world that with vision and grace, all is possible.”

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (which organizes the Oscars), shared a statement as well, “Sidney Poitier, the first Black actor to win the Best Actor Oscar, has died at 94. Poitier was barrier-breaking and an enduring inspiration who advanced US racial dialogue through his art. Few movie stars have had or will have the influence Poitier had both on and off screen.”

And Tyler Perry said, “The grace and class that this man has shown throughout his entire life, the example he set for me, not only as a black man but as a human being will never be forgotten. There is no man in this business who has been more of a North Star for me than Sidney Poitier… All I can say is thank you for your life, thank you for your example, and thank you for your incredible gift. But most of all, thank you for being willing to share YOU to make us all better.”

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