Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Among the many grateful intersections of New York Makers, we had the honor to know the peerless Cicely Tyson as friend and neighbor. Every day her spirit will continue as a source of inspiration to be our best and strive for excellence. CBS This Morning’s Gayle King, recently interviewing Ms. Tyson about her autobiography, Just As I Am (published two days before her passing) and her life, asking Harlem-born Ms. Tyson what she wanted us to remember about her. Ms. Tyson paused and answered with a deep, reflective smile, “I’ve done my best. That’s all.”
Actress, fashion model, icon, discerning diva with grace, a force for civil rights and justice -- Ms. Tyson truly showed the power of authenticity. In staying true to herself, she raised us all up individually and propelled us forward as a nation. Her uncompromising eminence on screen and stage won an Oscar nomination and an Honorary Oscar, three Emmy Awards, a Tony Award, a Peabody Award, among many others. She was a Kennedy Center honoree in 2015 and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2016. She was one of the hardest working people we knew -- and never stopped, even at 96.
In case you want to revisit some of her classics or discover something new, here are ten memorable Tyson performances compiled by the Hollywood Reporter:
- Sounder (1972)
- The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman (1974)
- Roots (1977)
- King (1979)
- The Marva Collins Story (1981)
- Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All (1994)
- Sweet Justice (1994-1995)
- The Help (2011)
- The Trip to Bountiful (2014)
- How to Get Away With Murder (2015-2020)
An extremely private person, Ms. Tyson was not as well known for some of her most important community work. Since 1995, she was actively involved in a specialized magnet middle and high school in East Orange, New Jersey, named for her: Cicely L. Tyson Community School of Performing and Fine Arts. Between 2006 and 2009, she helped get a new, technologically state-of-the-art building (including an 800-seat theater built to Broadway standards, “a TV studio, art studios, music rooms, individual performance practice rooms, animation rooms and shops to build and design stage sets. The classrooms all feature smartboards, advanced integrated audio-visual systems, and multiple computer workstations”) and new curriculum designed for the school. She visited the campus every year, exhorting the students to be great, and beamed with pride and affection every time she spoke about them.
Here’s a standing ovation for a life well lived. Brava, Ms. Tyson.