Sidney Poitier to Speak at UB on March 14

By Mary Beth Spina

Release Date: January 3, 2001 This content is archived.


Related Multimedia

Oscar-winning actor Sidney Poitier will speak at UB on March 14.

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Oscar-winning actor Sidney Poitier, who paved the way for greater opportunities for minorities in the movie and television industries, will speak at the University at Buffalo on March 14 at UB's 24th Martin Luther King, Jr. Commemoration.

He will speak as part of UB's 14th annual Distinguished Speakers Series at 8 p.m. in Alumni Arena on the North (Amherst) Campus.

Poitier was called "a man who never lost his concern for the least of God's children" by the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Others have asserted that his success has produced ripples in the social fabric far beyond the movie theater.

For some 50 years, Poitier has performed in or directed socially charged films such as "The Defiant Ones," "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner," "To Sir With Love" and "A Raisin in the Sun."

As a director, he has provided opportunities for many minorities in the film industry, on and off camera.

UB and the Don Davis Auto World Lectureship Fund will present his lecture. Lecture sponsors are the UB Martin Luther King, Jr. Commemoration and The James Fenton Lecture Foundation. Contributing lecture sponsors are UB's Division of Public Service and Urban Affairs and the Department of African American Studies in the College of Arts and Sciences as part of its 30th anniversary celebration.

Tickets at prices ranging from $12-$26 are available at the box office of the Center for the Arts on the North Campus from noon to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and at all TicketMaster locations. For group seating, call 716-645-6147, ext. 228. For more information, call the box office at 716-645-ARTS or TicketMaster at 716-852-5000.

Poitier was born prematurely in Miami when his parents were on a trip to sell produce raised on their small tomato farm in the Bahamas.

He received only a minimal education, and at the age of 12 moved to Miami, where he lived with an older brother and worked in menial jobs. As a teen-ager, he fled by bus to New York City after he learned the Ku Klux Klan was looking for him because he delivered a package to the front rather than back door of a house.

Not long after he arrived, Poitier was charged with and jailed for vagrancy and lived briefly in an orphanage. He later lied about his age and joined the U.S. Army, where he served as a physiotherapist with the 126th Medical Detachment before being discharged in 1944.

Returning to New York, he worked at a series of dead-end jobs until he answered a newspaper ad for black actors placed by the American Negro Theatre.

Barely able to read and never having seen a play, he decided he would become an actor. Undeterred by a rocky start, he finally won a role in "Lysistrata," which earned him a film test and launched his career. Winning an Oscar for his performance in "Lilies of the Field," he became the first black actor to win an Academy Award.

Now ambassador to Japan for the Commonwealth of the Bahamas, Poitier has received numerous honors and awards, including being knighted by Queen Elizabeth II. He is recipient of four honorary doctoral degrees and lifetime achievement awards from the American Film Institute, The Kennedy Center and the Screen Actors Guild.

UB's Undergraduate Student Association sponsors the Distinguished Speakers Series. Affiliate series sponsors are the University Bookstores, WNED-TV, and the Western New York Independent Living Project. Contributing series sponsors are WBFO-88.7 FM, the National Public Radio affiliate operated by the University at Buffalo; UB Center for the Arts; BAVServices; Makin' Copies; Buffalo/Niagara Marriott; UB Alumni Association, and the Amherst Chamber of Commerce.