The Measure of a Man
The Autobiography of Sidney Poitier
I haven’t watched every movie Mr. Poiteir starred in.
But I know the impact.
I know the character he played.
I know the drama his stoicism created on and off the screen.
Some people are so engrained in the culture we don’t recognize them as people.
They become more mythic, out of body, above the fray.
I think Sidney Poitier was one of those special kinds of people.
After his recent passing, I decided to read his autobiography, The Measure of a Man.
He told stories of his upbringing on the small Caribbean island of the Bahamas and the lessons of survival and life.
He confessed to all the trouble he got into when he was a kid. Which led his family to suggest he live with his big brother in Miami.
He told memories of racism he experienced in the Jim Crow south that are too frequent to mention but too chilling ever to forget.
But sincerely, he described how to measure a man for his worth.
So what is the measure of a man?
I guess the first definition I got from the book was one who could take care of his family—the people around you.
The more extended definition is how you deal with the thing in the back of your head.
Regardless of your circumstance.
To ignore what you feel is a timebomb.
To be what you want to become is our only saving grace.
Sidney Poitier had a lot of reasons to stop.
Many people and ideas in a Jim Crow America trying to seep into the consciousness of all black people for their “unworthiness.”
But, Sidney was not one for that bullshit. No, literally, he said it in the audiobook. “I wasn’t for that bullshit”
He had me laughing from one paragraph, to intensely thinking of my own inadequacies in the next.
He spelled it out plainly:
The measure of a man isn’t what you do when the cameras are on.
The measure of a man is what you do when the cameras are off.
When he makes a mistake.
How he rights his wrongs.
How he deals with his desires.
How he speaks to himself.
The measure of a man is many things
And for Sidney Poitier, he defined a generation.
Because above all else, in every role he played and every story he crafted, he was a man.
A dignified, honest, and true man.
One that we can all inspire to be.
Because of that pain and indignity, I find that the generation of black Americans, my grandmother’s generation and older, have such a stronghold on themselves.
An unbreakable will. I know we all know this, but I think it needs to be said again.
It’s something I feel more than ever we need to transmute to the newest generation.
I highly suggest that if you do pick up his book, listen to the audiobook. He does it himself and, it’s pretty riveting to hear his voice telling his own story. Check it out here.
See you all next Sunday,