Just over a month ago, Cicely Tyson turned 96 and I posted an image of her on my Instagram page with the following caption: “Cicely Tyson turning 96 amid a pandemic is Black glory. Regal resilience. Proof that we are more than the dying.” That was on December 19, 2020.
Yesterday, January 28, 2021, Queen Mother Cicely transitioned to the ancestral plane after an illustrious life centered around more than six decades in film and television. As an Oscar, Emmy and Tony-award winning actor, she shattered glass ceilings for Black women, Black actors and Black creatives. She then glided across those shards of glass with dignity and grace, working in Hollywood for decades while embodying a deep sense of integrity.
Much can be said about her groundbreaking roles in films such as “Sounder” or “The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman.” Or her later-in-life appearances in the hit television series, How to Get Away With Murder alongside Viola Davis. Or the vast amount of scripts and dialogues and characters she amassed between the first time she appeared behind a camera to the last.
But what I hope we all hold onto is Mother Cicely’s legacy as proof of a glorious Black life, not void of hardships or obstacles, rather one that endured and imagined and worked tirelessly to manifest her dreams into fruition.
Two days before she left the world’s stage her memoir, Just As I Am, was released. She said the following about the book:
“Just As I Am is my truth. It is me, plain and unvarnished, with the glitter and garland set aside. In these pages, I am indeed Cicely, the actress who has been blessed to grace the stage and screen for six decades. Yet I am also the church girl who once rarely spoke a word. I am the teenager who sought solace in the verses of the old hymn for which this book is named. I am a daughter and mother, a sister, and a friend. I am an observer of human nature and the dreamer of audacious dreams. I am a woman who has hurt as immeasurably as I have loved, a child of God divinely guided by His hand. And here in my ninth decade, I am a woman who, at long last, has something meaningful to say.”
Our world was immensely enriched by her living as a “dreamer of audacious dreams.” Take your bow and your rest, great one. Thank you for all of your offerings.
About the Author
Donney Rose is a poet, essayist, Kennedy Center Citizen Artist Fellow, advocate, and Chief Content Editor at The North Star. He believes in telling how it is and how it should be
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