‘To Mommy, with Love’
Happy birthday, Sidney Poitier. If my father were alive, he’d be a week shy of his 92nd born day. May he continue to rest in peace.
As a line in the old song goes: 'I never knew YOU at all' but I was six years old when I saw "To Sir, with Love" at the Roxy Cinema on Walpole. See, my Mom worked as a typist in the Roxy, so she got discounts on documentaries and live shows featuring the Afro National band with hits such as “Temedi” (Happiness).
Poitier’s eyes in one of the best movies of the sixties are as memorable as National’s songs.
A steely glance held up in a ramrod suit, Poitier played a young, gifted and black engineer who took up teaching in the Docklands, where decades later my mom (who just turned 81) would live briefly during the war in Sierra Leone.
I’ve watched a lot of movies with engineers. Most recently, “Regina the Engineer,” a Nigerian tearjerker about overcoming life’s hurdles and challenges; old Hollywood cultural staples like "October Sky" and "Good Will Hunting,” but the most inspirational for me is the movie based on E.R. Braithwaite’s book "To Sir, With Love," published in 1959--the year my mom and dad got married and started a family.
My Mom gave me a copy of the bestseller during my first term at Fourah Bay College, where I had gone to study English. And, perhaps, translate National’s Themne and Mende folk songs into Yoruba, Igbo, or even Zulu.
The Guyana-born Eustace Edward Ricardo Braithwaite, a one-time diplomat to Venezuela and a Royal Air Force pilot, spent time teaching in Britain. His cultural experiences inspired the bestseller "To Sir, With Love" and the movie of the same name. Braithwaite died aged 104 in Rockville, Maryland. (Hillel Italie, LATimes, Dec. 13, 2016)
Get well soon, Tunde.
To Mommy, with Love