Remembering Cicely Tyson
Everyday, the world is blessed with talented individuals that create a mark that sometimes fade away. Yet, once in a lifetime, the world receives a gifted person that creates a legacy and leaves an impact so great, that even the hosts of heaven stop and admire the anointing of grace that covers them. Such a gift came to us in the personage of Cicely Tyson. Born in Harlem, New York on December 19, 1924, Ms. Tyson is the daughter of Fredrica Tyson, a domestic worker, and William Augustine Tyson, a carpenter; both were immigrants from the West Indies.
Growing up and experiencing some tough and tumultus times in America, Ms. Tyson made it her goal to be a positive representation of Black women. From being a fashion model to gracing the silver screen, every role and every pose and every iconic look, Ms. Tyson gave us a measure of wisdom that would shape our perspective of life. That measure flowed from a heart that doctors said would not live past three months because of a heart murmur, but as Black folks love to say, ‘but God!’
Since her childhood, Ms. Tyson was always performing and reciting, capturing the attention of many because of her naturally divine gift to entertain, educate and inspire. Starting at her childhood church and eventually being seen on the silver screen, she was very selective of the roles that she accepted. Refusing to accept roles that denigrated the image and position of Black women, Ms. Tyson made Hollywood accept that she was not going to lay down and accept anything, even if it meant that she would go months even years without work, she was not backing down from her principles.
With that standard, Ms. Tyson commanded a level of respect that was often not usually extended to Black actors during that time. With that came iconic movies that will live with us forever, some include: “Tyler Perry’s Madea’s Family Reunion” (2006), “The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman” (1974), “Tyler Perry’s Diary of a Mad Black Woman” (2005), “Roots” (1977), “Sounder” (1972), and my personal favorite, “Mama Flora’s Family” (1998). Gracing the world of acting and entertainment for seven full and blessed decades, Bishop T.D Jakes of Potter’s House Church accredits Ms. Tyson’s longevity to her love and devotion to God and the people that she served.
From modeling and acting to receiving that Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack H. Obama II in 2016, Cicely Tyson’s career has touched multiple generations, ideologies and broken a plethora of stereotypes. Black America is in mourning, not because an acting legend transitioned from life, but because the Queen Mother (as she is so affectionately called by many in the Black community) is no longer here. However, before she transitioned, she left us with her words, her stories that she had written down in her memoir.
Just As I Am: A Memoir by Cicely Tyson was released January 26, 2021, just two days before her death. Chronicling her life and the struggles and victories that she encountered, she leaves this as a parting gift and compass for the current and future generations so that they may grow in wisdom and live in love. As we remember the life of Cicely Tyson, let us also continue the legacy that she built. The legacy that fought to change the negative perspective of Black America, the legacy that gave us a voice and that commanded the attention. The legacy that said that we are more than slaves, that said that we are here and we are strong. The legacy of Cicely Tyson.