Sounder, The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pitman, and Busting Loose are just a few of the most popular movie titles of which Ms. Cecily Tyson spread about her acting talent. Actually, Ms. Tyson’s career began on stage and on the silver screen with what possibly was her first movie, Carib Gold in 1956. As a woman of color, this was groundbreaking! Many others would follow such as The Angry Man in 1959 and The Heart is a Lonely Hunter in 1968. Her career spanned over 60 years and was decorated with many awards and accolades.
As a little girl growing up in Arizona and Alabama, I didn’t realize as a brown child, that I too could grace the stage. It wasn’t until I saw Roots and The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman many years after they originally aired, that I saw a beautiful woman who looked like me prove me wrong. My highschool wishlist included acting on stage. I finally got that chance last 2019 and early 2020 in three plays for Mor-Shy Productions.
Ms. Tyson continued to portray her every role with grace and class. My favorite movies were Mama Flora’s House and Tyler Perry’s 2006 release, Madea’s Family Reunion. Her monologue in the latter movie was cinematic gold. Ms. Tyson spoke not only to the young actors but to the nation as she encouraged us all to “love on one another” and to respect our elders and ourselves, and etc.
The loss of Ms. Cecily Tyson rocked the world on January 28, 2021, just two days after the release of her memoirs “Just as I Am”, at the cool age of 96 years old. She was an icon. A true legend. She worked all the way up to her death with her final works including A Fall From Grace, and How to Get Away with Murder, where she played Viola Davis’ mother, a woman with Dementia. It was an honor to be her fan.
When the news of her passing was released, it felt as if a family member had died. Ms. Tyson had been a staple in our home my entire life. She was an inspiration, an example of classiness, a portrayal of kindness, and lived her life and carried herself with grace and mindfulness. She taught us that there was nothing we could not do if only we believed in ourselves and a higher power that watched over us all.
We could learn from this Queen’s career that breaking barriers can be done through action and through what we choose to say.
She once said, “I realized that I could not afford the luxury of just being an actress, that there were a number of issues that I needed to address. So I made the decision to use my career as my platform”. And she did just that! Let’s all use our platforms to address the issues and injustices of today. So that even though Ms. Tyson’s life on Earth has ended, her legacy will live on.
Ms. Valerie Collins