Cicely Tyson: rare quality and power

When a legend dies, the words by which to form a fitting tribute can elude the most experienced wordsmith. Precious is the memory of the pioneering, groundbreaking, Tony, Academy and Emmy Award-winning, Cicely Tyson, who passed on the eve of the release of her memoir, Just As I Am.

Tyson released a rare quality and power into a world that worked diligently to keep women who looked like her, the deep chocolate variety, on the side of invisibility. Her work in plays such as To Be Young, Gifted and Black and The Blacks which also starred icons, Maya Angelou and James Earl Jones, spotlighted the beginning of her illustrious career.

In the hearts and minds of millions, Tyson was seen as a trailblazer. Here was someone that stood tall within her diminutive stature with dignity so strong, she made it possible for the world to see black women as more than “the help”. She refused to be typecast and demean black women.

Her iconic role in East Side West Side, which won her an Academy Award nomination, was the first time audiences witnessed a woman of color in a role that exemplified her humanity.

Features like Sounder, The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pitman, Roots, A Woman Called Moses, and more recently, How to Get Away With Murder, exemplified the scope and magnitude of her 60-year career as an actor. 

Fame and fortune was not her reason to answer the call of the bright lights of Hollywood. Racial inequality was rife during her early years in film. Placing a light on the inequities throughout America's society propelled her to the heights she eventually reached. Her voice aided under-served communities which she fervently worked to represent.

We celebrate the life of one of cinema's finest actors, Cicely Tyson.

She will live on through all those she inspired and influenced through her rich body of work.