ARTE NOIR EDITORIAL

BLACK ICONS, BLACK ANCESTORS

In these recent years, it seems as though we are hardly done with our tributes to a new ancestor before we must start anew to remember and honor another.


Sidney Poitier

(February 20, 1927 – January 6, 2022)

The recent passing of Sidney Poitier marked the end of an era that stood as a standard for Black dignity in entertainment. Poitier refused to play the kind of roles that had sustained the livelihoods of some before him – the Steppin Fetchit, “Yass sir boss” kind of character. He was a principled actor and became the first Black actor to win the Oscar for Best Actor, ironically in a role that set him as the saving grace for a group of white nuns, (1964 Lilies of the Field). A beautifully penned tribute to Poitier comes from writer Isabel Wilkerson.

Sidney Poitier courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Andre Leon Talley

(October 6, 1948 – January 18, 2022)

When The Gospel According to Andre was released in 2018, I scrambled high and low to find a place where it was running. The only movie theaters I found were in the hinterlands – spaces much outside of the city core, in what seemed like a concerted effort to keep attendance low. And to use an Andre-ism, the “drekatude” continues even after he has passed, with most streaming platforms choosing to rent the documentary. Can’t help but feel like capitalism is continuing to work against the mighty maker of fashion giants. How dreadful, especially when considering that the passing of most any other fashion icon would prompt hours of documentary-style programming, for free. Regardless, we honor the passing of a man whose royalty dripped freely into our style-minds, even when we didn’t know it and didn’t appropriately appreciate it. Tanisha C. Ford delivered this tribute/retrospective for The Atlantic.


We know that transitions and ancestral beginnings will continue to be a part of the lives of the living. That, unfortunately, doesn't soften the blow. If we can believe that each human lives as long as it takes to complete their purpose in this realm, perhaps we can better appreciate the time when our trailblazers, icons, and beloved exemplars of our culture eventually fade to black. We'll continue to keep the lights up for you to shine your memory.