The Weekly Text, 4 February 2022, Black History Month 2022 Week I: A Reading and Comprehension Worksheet on Sidney Poitier

For the first week of Black History Month 2022 at Mark’s Text Terminal, here is a reading on Sidney Poitier together with its attendant vocabulary-building and comprehension worksheet.

As I comment on this blog at the beginning of every February, one month a year remains insufficient for the study of the myriad contributions to the world of people of African descent everywhere. More locally, Black history is American history. At the same time, for obvious reasons this site is not in the business of questioning a man of Carter Woodson’s stature. Hence the annual flurry of posts in observation of this month.

I don’t know if you’ve seen Steve McQueen’s excellent quintet of films, Small Axe, (it streams on Amazon Prime). The series left a sufficiently strong impression on me that I plan to watch it again. In the fifth and final film in the series, Education, we meet young Kingsley, who is obviously very bright but who nonetheless struggles in school. Because of his reading struggles (I inferred that he was dealing with the challenge of dyslexia; I’d be very interested to hear what you think), he is placed in a school for the “educationally subnormal.” In the course of this touching, thought-provoking film, the viewer is introduced to Bernard Coard’s short but cogent, indeed pungent, book, How the West Indian Child is Made Educationally Sub-normal in the British School System. After I watched the film, I set out in search of this book. Happily, it has been recently reprinted in a reasonably priced paperback edition. I bought one, read it, and transcribed some of the sections I considered most salient to teachers working today. I’m happy to say some of those quotes will appear here this month.

In any case, as you surely know, Sidney Poitier died on 6 January of this year. Sir Sidney (Queen Elizabeth knighted him in 1974) arrived in my consciousness when I was quite young–six or seven years old when I saw The Defiant Ones one afternoon on some sort of local television network matinee showing. Sidney Poitier’s dignity and moral force floored me, even at that young age. Afterwards, perhaps for the first time in my young life, I made note of Sir Sidney’s name and pledged to myself to watch any movie featuring him. I can’t pretend that the first time I saw Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (a subtle, adult drama I first watched, I think, before my tenth birthday), I understood it, but I sure have since. In 1992, I was delighted to see him turn up among the all-star cast in the clever thriller Sneakers.

So, requiescat in pace Sir Sidney: the world is a better place for your presence.

If you find typos in these documents, I would appreciate a notification. And, as always, if you find this material useful in your practice, I would be grateful to hear what you think of it. I seek your peer review.

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