Caribbean community mourns loss of Cicely Tyson

Cicely Tyson, enjoying the spotlight at Gracie Mansion, during the celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the West Indian American Carnival, at Gracie Mansion in 2017.
Photo by Tangerine Clarke

The Caribbean community paid tribute to legendary American actress, Cicely Tyson who died on Thursday, Jan. 28. She was 96.

The award-winning stage and screen star, whose parents were born on the island of Nevis, talked about her life on Ryan and Kelly Show which is chronicled in her memoir “Just As I Am,” two days before her passing.

This reporter was fortunate to photograph and feature Tyson, a recipient of three Primetime Emmy Awards, four Black Reel Awards, and a Screen Actors Guild Award.

She was the honored guest at the 50th Caribbean American Carnival Association’s celebration, hosted by Mayor Bill de Blasio and his wife, Chirlane McCray at Gracie Mansion, on Aug. 29, 2017, proclaimed Cicely Tyson Day by the politician.

This was followed by the presentation of a Proclamation, before de Blasio in his address, called Tyson, an extraordinary actress and many times a trailblazer, opening doors for hundreds of thousands of actors and actresses, he added, and recounted her 60 plus years on screen and stage.

Mayor Bill de Blasio and wife Chirlane McCray, presenting a Proclamation to legendary actress, Cicely Tyson at the 50th Anniversary of the West Indian American Carnival celebration, at Gracie Mansion in 2017. Photo by Tangerine Clarke, File

De Blasio, told Tyson she was the greatest actress to ever grace the stage of Gracie Mansion, a compliment, that garnered loud applause for the late beloved iconic Hollywood star, who was also honored with the Medial of Freedom from President Barack Obama.

Tyson, who had lit up the stage in her colorful ensemble, spoke of her parents whom she said, had taken her to every West Indian event when she was growing up.

“I wish my mother was here’” she said. “I came here through a mother and father from the Island of Nevis. I spent my entire life steeped in West Indian culture, and there was never a time when I didn’t attend a West Indian function with my family. I listened to every single West Indian Calypso,” she quipped.

“ The next three generations of my family can tell you everything about taking pride in being a West Indian. It is important to know why you are here, and why you were placed on earth to perform,” Tyson said.

“People wonder why I am here so long. I wonder myself why I am here so long. I am the sole member of my immediate family alive. God has me here for a reason, and I am willing to stay.” she said, back in 2017.

Former Prime Minister of Saint Kitts, Sir Kennedy Simmonds in a Facebook statement said he was “saddened to hear of the passing of the legendary and iconic Hollywood actress, Cicely Tyson. Cicely Tyson was born to Nevisian parents and was extremely proud of her Nevisian heritage.”

“She was a very special guest of the St. Kitts-Nevis government at our Independence Celebrations in 1983. In 1989 she returned to the federation, this time bringing Rev. Jesse Jackson in the aftermath of Hurricane Hugo. She was as proud of her heritage as we were of her. Rest In Peace Cicely Tyson. You’ve done well. You’ve done us proud,” he added.

Prime Minister of Jamaica, Andrew Holness in a statement said, “Her inspiring acting career lasted decades and was marked by many groundbreaking moments including outstanding performances in “Roots,” “King: The Martin Luther King Story,” and “Trip to Bountiful.”

Tyson, born in Harlem, was the recipient of three Primetime Emmy Awards, four Black Reel Awards, one Screen Actors Guild Award, one Tony Award, an honorary Academy Award, and a Peabody Award, and others. She will be remembered as one of the most brilliant, talented actresses of our time, and for the school that bears her name: The Cicely L. Tyson Community School of Performing and Fine Arts in East Orange, New Jersey.

Every year, she made it her duty to be actively involved in the school and worked with the students, inspiring them and reminding them that they, too, can become great, according to a statement from the school.

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