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Legends: Cicely Tyson

Her IMDB listing

"All you've got to do in this country today is just be on television and you're more known and respected than anyone who paints a great painting or creates great music or writes a great book or is a great dancer. People were already calling me 'Mr. Tyson,' or saying, 'I know who you are. You're that guy who's married to Cicely Tyson!' And they would be sincere when they said that. It taught me that a bad, untalented person who is on television or in the movies can be more recognized and respected than than a genius who doesn't appear on the screen." --Miles Davis

Her ex-husband Miles Davis may not have respected her noteriety, but I for one would argue that Cicely Tyson is not nearly famous enough. She was a successful model before she started acting. She studied at NYU and the Actor's Studio. She's been a staple of TV, even starting out on the soap opera Guiding Light as well as movies. She's been nominated for many, Emmy's Ocsars, Baftas, Golden Globes and everything else under the sun. From 1981-88, she was married to fellow legend Miles Davis, a relationship that from all accounts was tumultuous and abusive. (Several Sources also list her as a co-founder of the Dance Theatre of Harlem with Arthur Mitchell and Karel Shook, but as their site only lists her as a part of the National Advisory Board, the story does not seem completely accurate.)

Watching The Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All reminded why Cicely Tyson was for years treated by the black community with the same reverence that Meryl Streep is nearly universally accorded now. I had been wondering if she'd been working lately, because I hadn't heard much about her in years. It seems she's been in the land of women's TV, territory that for some reason doesn't seem to speak to any women I know. It's a sad thing really, since I'd much rather be inundated with projects by the like of Tyson than reality TV featuring any of the so call popular personalities these days.

The choices of roles I made had to do with educating and entertaining. And as a result I found myself working only every two or three years. --Cicely Tyson

I think that like Streep, Tyson has suffered a bit because of the preciousness of her reputation. She is well known for her commitment to only taking roles that show black people in a strong and positive light. In many ways, she has made her work part of the politics of her life, something that has made it impossible to treat either lightly. In fact the characters she portrays are as much a part of the fabric of black American history as the real people were. It is almost impossible to think of Harriet Tubman, Coretta Scott King, Rosa Parks and Jane Pittman anymore without her name being part of their legacy. I'm actually surprised that there are Zora Neale Hurston projects coming up that don't have her name attached. It seems an almost unthinkable oversight.

Despite a lengthy search, I could barely find any information online about about Tyson's recent works and endeavors. I know she's not exactly E! NEWS material but hey, I barely even found any information about her marriage to Miles Davis, arguably the most tabloid-attractive part of her career. Bill Cosby provided his house as the location for the wedding and served as best man; with all the star power they were surrounded by and Davis' explosive reputation, you'd think that would at least rate a scandalous website somewhere. Most information, however came from reviews of books about Davis, and the snippets featuring her focused on his abuse, the time she fought back and pulled the weave out of his head! and her semi-successful struggle to get him to quit drugs and smoking and live a healthier lifestyle.

She hasn't been hiding out on the stage either. It seems she hasn't been on at least the Broadway stage since 1983. Generally, it seems that between her acting roles she's been backing up the U-Haul to collect awards for her acting and her humanitarian work. She has a record number of NAACP Image awards and awards from possibly every black activist group in the country. She is a world ambassador for UNICEF since 1985 and a supporter of Meals on Wheels. She has her own school of Performing and Fine Arts and does charity work through her church.

This past January, she gave a talk about science, politics and Carribbean Culture and how war research can be used for more humanitarian purposes, like cancer research. I especially like the part where she acknowledges that while others who make their career in politics and science may be more qualified to discuss such issues, we all have a responsibility to educate ourselves.

Despite her obvious dedication to various causes, I haven't seen Tyson in any news conferences where she rachets up self-publicity while she supports her cause either. Unlike say, Sharon Stone or Jennifer Lopez who can't seem to leave a tip without calling the press. The ironic thing is I wouldn't mind if Tyson called up the press a little more. This is a woman whose life seems to hold as much quality as her art and I for one wouldn't mind knowing more about her. That is as long as they aren't appearances like this that will get her listed at Go Fug Yourself. A kerchief is not what becomes a legend most unless she's playing a slave.

decent bio    
other Tyson info

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