In 1972, Sidney Poitier and Harry Belafonte sat down for an interview with Ellis Haizlip, the host of the TV variety series Soul! They were there to promote their new film, Buck and the Preacher, a western depicting Black cowboy heroes and countering decades of Hollywood’s whitewashed version of history. It was their first feature collaboration, after years of being close friends and fellow activists in the civil rights movement, and it marked Poitier’s directorial debut. Haizlip asked them an age-old question that comes with the territory of having achieved a certain level of fame and/or monetary success, especially if you’re Black: Did they find it difficult relating to those who knew them before the stardom, awards, and cultural influence?
It was a challenge at times, Poitier admitted, largely because structural barriers permitted only a few Black people to attain their level of success. Belafonte added: “We have used our power, we have used our craft, in order to set platforms for other artists to be able to project themselves, other Black artists. So that despite the inequities, despite the contradictions, within this society, it has not deterred us from a Black consciousness.”
In other words: Sidney and I have come a long way, but we have not forgotten where we come from.
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