Cicely Tyson the first black female actress to have a recurring tv role, first black actress to wear an afro on tv, the co-founder of The Dance Theatre Harlem, won two Emmys for playing one role, a Tony Winner in her late 80's, a career resurgence in her 70's... there are so many amazing things we can say about the pint-sized warrior of Ms. Tyson . A New York original born in Harlem, she began her career as a model then studied at The Actor Studio and her break came in the The Blacks. Her initial Algonquin circle was the reg. circle of black luminaries, Maya Angelou, Abby Lincoln, Max Roach, Nina Simone, James Baldwin, Gordon Parks, Miles Davis, Arthur Mitchell... etc. For us these are legends, for Ms. Tyson they were homies and it is in that atmosphere of excellence, pride, love and support that we witness her meteoric rise. When you are a legend, your legacy can be come before who you are. In our well placed reverence, the woman can be forgotten. Cicely Tyson was so many things, an actress, a visionary, a feminist, lover, a Christian, a warrior, fashion trendsetter and above all a self loving DARK SKINNED black woman. That was such a defining part of how she moved throughout her life, she demanded her short hair on screen, she intentionally wore cornrows on publicity trails, and when black people complained she was showing us in bad way with her "naps" she acknowledged their "brainwashing " and continued because the mission was beyond her. In a world where Lena Horne, Diahann Carroll, Dorothy Dandridge, Eartha Kitt were the standards of beauty here comes Cicely with her quiet and gentle defiance. She didn't have to say Black was Beautiful she lived it. In her clothing, in her loves, in her community, in how she chose her roles, in the marrow of her being. Among some it is known that in her later years, Ms. Tyson was not always the most pleasant person to handle, I always imagine for the trailblazing women and particular for those of us of the darker hue it can wear on our spirit. We must be all things, always friendly, always approachable a queen, eventually you can become lost. We honor this woman, who for me particularly as dark-skinned actress presence meant so much. I pray that in those last days she was loved, she laughed, was cherished, kissed, I hope someone held her and called her queen just because she was with them and for nothing more. May the Lords Gate opened wide when you walked through Sista Tyson and I hoped you danced.
Nelson Mandela ( 1918-2013) You can not talk about the legacy of Nelson Mandela without discussing Winnie Mandela. Their legacy is tied in every way in an amazing but extremely painful journey. It's indisputable that his name remained alive because of her. That is not opinion but an actual fact, as the white South African government terrorized their homes, children and marriage basically ripping it at its thread they remained in solidarity. Their relationship became a political movement which was initially started out as a classic love story. They should have been the original Michelle and Barack for the world but a terroristic regime destroyed any hope for that. Nelson Mandela was not a teddy bear, he was a freedom fighter in every way that word means and his comrade was Winnie. Eventually he had to sacrifice her in the name of a greater movement, bringing peace to a country that would never repay any of the native peoples in a truly meaningful way which is obvious in the violence that is alive among the native peoples today. That in no way undermines the legacy of not just Nelson but Oliver Tambo, Steven Biko, African People’s Congress and many, many other lives that were sacrificed at the hands of that terroristic government.
While he was in the jail, Winnie was on the streets with the pain, strife, withstanding brutality that no one woman should have to endure. She did participate in violence that others may think of an unsavory, well Apartheid was ugly. White officers would go to homes and slaughter families, Steven Biko was beaten to a pulp and handcuffed to the front of a hospital nude. The stories go on and on. Winnie's violence was in question while DeKlerk who should have been tried in the world court shared a Nobel Peace Prize with Mandela. Nelson Mandela was not a saint, nor did he need to be. The Truth and Reconciliation act, helped the people in power but did not support the majority of the citizens as well. It allowed white South African to travel without recourse, no one thinks of the them as Germans were thought of at the end of the Nazi regime. There was no Nuremburg trials for the the 200 years of horrors that the white minority regime inflicted to the Native peoples of Southern Africa. White South Africans are winning awards and are Hollywood stars while who knows the name of any Native outside of Nelson Mandela.
If you are going to respect him, admire him as a survivor, a freedom fighter who carried on the legacies of Biko and others. He along with many others put their life on the line so other Native peoples can have a chance. He was not liberator of the world , the sacrifice he made for his people made him a symbol for what revolution looks like. Admire him for not losing his mind under conditions that were made to destroy him, for having a marriage where his wife was humiliated every way possible but never broke their bond. A man who spoke out against atrocities in other lands, including the USA. As a man who who was able to tolerate the government that for 27 years destroyed his marriage, took his most physically active years, his career, his home, his community and then created dissension between his comrade and lover. In the midst of all this still managed to create something from the scraps that were left. South Africa is not triumphant but his resilience was.
#nelsonmandela #southafrica #winniemandela #apartheid #anc #africannationalcongress #blackresilience #africa #motherland #africanpeoplescongress #freedomfighter #liberation
Ntozake Shange....the name alone is iconic! If you are a actress from the African Diaspora there is no way you haven’t heard or said her name at least once. “ for colored girls..” no need to say anymore because for women of the African Diaspora there is no playwright more important. She defined the Black aesthetic in theatre. She gave a space where our stories shined, our heartache & joy were celebrated. Her words help to give Voice to the toxic misogyny which existed in our community but for fear of “airing our dirty laundry “ were too fearful to share. Ntozake life while amazing was not easy, she was the first and as a result endured the brunt of what it means to break that ceiling. This was before “#blackgirlmagic” and many of the women of that production suffered great disillusionment after the glory ended. Ntozake continued to create, to define a new language that inspired new forms of creativity while simultaneously moving through the uncertainty that sudden fame brings. Her prose allowed me and many others a structural liberty in our expression. Ntozake gave birth to the first black woman to win a Tony for best featured actress in a play, for a black man to win Drama Critics and another black woman to win a Theatre World Award. Her work has been translated in over 20 languages and is international in its influence.Not every artist can say, my presence made a seismic shift...but for Ms. Shange there is not a question...Ase my Sista!
An Actor/Director sharing her thoughts on creativity in this crazy metropolis, New Yawk Citay.