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Monday, November 29, 2021

Black Women In Hollywood Pay Homage To Cicely Tyson

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To say Cicely Tyson broke down barriers would be an understatement. She was a force responsible for making sure generations of people rejected the limitations society tries to place on them. That was especially true for Black women in Hollywood. Tyson, with her graceful, powerful artistry, moved mountains to make sure Black women were seen and felt.

“I was determined to do all I could to alter the narrative about Black people — to change the way Black women in particular were perceived, by reflecting our dignity,” she wrote in her memoir, which came out just three days before she died on Jan. 28 at age 96. With this mission, there isn’t a life she left untouched. Tyson delivered groundbreaking performances, paving the way for Black actors of today and tomorrow, and made sure her activism was woven into her acting. Because she spent her life giving to this world, we are able to progress closer to equity in Hollywood and beyond.

HuffPost asked several of today’s Black leading ladies to define what Tyson’s legacy means to them. They were eager to lift her name. From Lynn Whitfield, a Hollywood veteran and dear friend of Tyson’s; to Xosha Roquemore, a millennial actor who recently co-starred with Tyson in “Cherish The Day;” to Dominique Fishback, who tattooed Tyson’s words onto her body, they showed deep reverence. They understand that without Tyson, the ground that they stand on would be a lot less solid.

Tracee Ellis Ross: “When speaking of or remembering Cicely Tyson, legacy is not enough to convey the breadth and scope of what she shared with us, what she leaves behind. Her groundbreaking career was anchored in a higher calling. Her spirit was both gentle and bold. Her choices were purposeful and honest. With a career full of ‘first,’ she forged a path for those to come after her (including me). As the first Black woman to wear her hair naturally on a television show, she said, ‘I wanted to alter the narrative about how Black people, and Black women particularly, were perceived by reflecting their dignity.’ She spent her entire career uplifting our beauty and humanity. I am forever grateful for her grace and for the way she answered her calling.”

Lynn Whitfield: “Her work was exquisite. Her art was exquisite. Detailed. Textured. Authentic. And beyond that, as a woman, as a human, she should be known for her wisdom, her vulnerability and her humor. Her complexity and her activism. Cicely walked as a soulful queen through it all, teaching us that royalty need not be unapproachable, but available, hardworking and joyful. By example, she led. Without the inspiration of Cicely Tyson being who she was, I would not be who I am.”

Left to right: Lynn Whitfield, Keke Palmer, Lisa Arrindell Anderson, Cicely Tyson and Rochelle Aytes. <i/>E. Charbonneau via Getty Images” height=”480″ loading=”lazy” src=”https://img.huffingtonpost.com/asset/60254c792500000a1c91b500.jpeg?ops=scalefit_720_noupscale” width=”720″></picture></div><figcaption>Left to right: Lynn Whitfield, Keke Palmer, Lisa Arrindell Anderson, Cicely Tyson and Rochelle Aytes. <i>E. Charbonneau via Getty Images</i></figcaption></figure>
<p><strong>Ryan Michelle Bathé</strong><span>: “She was extraordinary, but the patience and stamina she had to have to accomplish so much is truly mind boggling. Her lifetime is and was a monument to being the first, to paving the way, to becoming an icon. To say that we all owe her is insufficient. To say ‘thank you Ms. Tyson’ also feels woefully insufficient. To say she was courageous and fierce in the face of odds that we can’t imagine is, again, just insufficient. The only thing we can do, those of us who want to honor her legacy, is the work. Every day. Live with grace and courage. Pave the way for others. And to live with stamina, knowing that our race may be long, but we are built to go the distance. Cicely Tyson, I love you and I honor you. Always.”</span></p>
<p><strong>Xosha Roquemore</strong><span>: “I recently had the once-in-a-lifetime honor of working very closely with Ms. Tyson. I was nervous, intimidated and elated all at once. Upon meeting her I was blown away by her warmth and wit. Once we got on set and the cameras were rolling, I was dazzled by her skills and work ethic. She was an actor’s actor, wanting to rehearse and dive deep into the psyche of our characters. In between scenes we would chit chat and she shared so many wonderful stories from her journey. </span></p>
<p><span>The woman was a legend and was able to build a prolific career from the ground up as a dark-skinned Black woman in a business and in a world that isn’t always kind to us. She said the thing that kept her going was enjoying the journey and simply never stopping. She knew what she wanted and what she was worthy of and she made the necessary sacrifices to achieve those things. She passed on projects that didn’t give Black female characters the dignity they deserved. And the projects that she took gave life to Black women and showed us in ways we had yet to be seen. She was a class act and she opened doors for all of us, especially those of us with a darker hue. She was the truth and an icon. Ms. Tyson’s legacy is a bold reminder that I am enough just as I am.”</span></p>
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<picture><source type=Tyson and Xosha Roquemore, stars of Amanda Edwards via Getty Images” height=”479″ loading=”lazy” src=”https://img.huffingtonpost.com/asset/60254c01260000a514c23bac.jpeg?ops=scalefit_720_noupscale” width=”720″>
Tyson and Xosha Roquemore, stars of “Cherish The Day,” in January 2020. Amanda Edwards via Getty Images

Lorraine Toussaint: “Watching Cicely on stage doing ‘The Trip To Bountiful’ was one of the greatest acting lessons I have ever received. Then in her late 80s, Ms. Tyson went up on her lines and had to stop and regroup. Her grace, her authenticity, her willingness to fully allow us into her masterful process was thrilling. After she reentered from the wings, Cicely picked us up mid-emotion, and effortlessly and deftly continued the scene. We jumped to our feet in a glorious standing ovation at the intermission break. She was magnificent. She was an actor’s actor. Thank you Ms. Tyson. Safe travels.”

Regina King: “Ms. Tyson’s legacy has left an indelible mark. She always kept her head high and imparted wisdom every time she had the mic. Her grace, choices and everything she stood for was like a lighthouse pointing me in the right direction whenever I was unsure where to go.”

Tyson, left, with hosts Regina King (center) and Tracee Ellis Ross (right) during the 2015 BET special Gilbert Carrasquillo via Getty Images” height=”655″ loading=”lazy” src=”https://img.huffingtonpost.com/asset/60254d3224000024021b305c.jpeg?ops=scalefit_720_noupscale” width=”720″>
Tyson, left, with hosts Regina King (center) and Tracee Ellis Ross (right) during the 2015 BET special “Black Girls Rock!” Gilbert Carrasquillo via Getty Images

Gabrielle Union: “Cicely Tyson’s legacy is a blueprint for Black artists to cultivate, nurture and enjoy their craft while simultaneously centering Blackness unapologetically. She led from the front. She talked the talk and walked the walk for our people and her silence and submission were not required ingredients necessary for her tremendous success.”

Taraji P. Henson: “Cicely Tyson was always my guideline for greatness and a blueprint to creating my own legacy to leave behind. She fought many battles that allowed me the audacity to not just dream but make those very dreams come to fruition. She fought so we could continue the fight, making it easier for the next brown girl to dream of her own legacy. Queen Cicely Tyson. So grateful to have witnessed all of your GREATNESS. Rest in God’s loving arms 🙏🏾🙏🏾🙏🏾”

From left to right: Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Tyson and Viola Davis at the NAACP Image Awards in February 2012. <i/>Alberto E. Rodriguez via Getty Images” height=”619″ loading=”lazy” src=”https://img.huffingtonpost.com/asset/60254e8f2600000f1927629a.jpeg?ops=scalefit_720_noupscale” width=”720″></picture></div><figcaption>From left to right: Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Tyson and Viola Davis at the NAACP Image Awards in February 2012. <i>Alberto E. Rodriguez via Getty Images</i></figcaption></figure>
<p><strong>Issa Rae</strong><span>:</span> <span>“I get emotional thinking about it because we don’t have many Black female icons who have been doing it as long as she’s been doing it, and who’s been committed to us in such a rich way. She was one of those people that you hope would live forever just by her presence. And I think all of us felt at peace with her. She was a part of all of our families and to lose her is hurtful. But she accomplished so much, she overcame so much, and she did it with such dignity and grace and love. And you can only, one can only hope to have a legacy like hers.”</span></p>
<p><strong>Kron Moore</strong><span>: “Cicely Tyson was one of the first actresses who made an impression on me. She was fearlessly, unapologetically Black and has left a legacy of pride and excellence that I recall anytime I begin to doubt my worthiness. I’m so grateful and humbled to stand on the shoulders of our national treasure.”</span></p>
<p><strong>Madalen Mills</strong><span>: “Thanks to the thoughtful work of Ms. Cicely Tyson, young Black girl actresses can aspire to tell the many stories of who we are. I can dream with no limits but at the same time, recognize and honor the path Ms. Tyson paved for so many.”</span></p>
<p><strong>Dominique Fishback: </strong>“<span>When I was 14, I watched ‘Family Reunion’ and she was talking about divine love. And sh</span></p>
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