Cicely Tyson, One of the Greats

By Katia Milazzo 

Cicely Tyson passed away January 28, 2021. It is only fitting to honor her life and her many accomplishments during Black History Month 2021Tyson was not only a strong black woman but a true icon. She broke down stereotypes in the big screens, small screens as well as the stage. An inspiring fact about Tyson is that she advocated for black actresses and actors to turn down roles that demeaned black people such as criminals and immoral characters. Even though many were without work when turning those roles down, they kept their dignity and pride.

Tyson won three Emmy awards and a Tony award and was one of the oldest people to win a Tony. She also won an OscarPeabody award and many others. In 1963 Tyson became the first African American star of a TV drama in the series East Side/West Side, playing the role of secretary Jane Foster.”  Tyson brought crucial characters to life. She stunned the world with her performance as Miss Jane Pittman in The Autobiography of Miss Jane PittmanI recommend watching it, you will not regret it. Another famous movie she was in is The Help. There’s a lot of controversy with that movie since it is initially about the lives of maids during the civil rights movement yet told by a white woman and directed by a white male. Although this movie did spark up my passion for social justice and human equality my sophomore year of high school. Her iconic line, “Every day you’re not dead in the ground, when you wake up in the morning, you’re gonna have to make some decisions. Got to ask yourself this question: “Am I gonna believe all them bad things them fools say about me today?” You hear me? Those very words instilled more confidence in myself in everything I do to this day.  

There is no doubt that she brought brilliance to the arts, but what she also brought to the table is her activism for civil rights and women’s equality. Tyson also had a passion for community service. She co-founded the Dance Theater of Harlem. Tyson was honored by the Congress of Racial Equality, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and the National Council of Negro Women. In 1977 she was inducted into the Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame.” She also received the Presidential Medal of Freedom and an honorary Academy award. Cicely Tyson was a rare diamond in this world that we will forever remember and cherish. Take some time to listen to the podcast from NPR attached to this blog.