December 19, 1924 – January 28, 2021.
You were given 96 years on this earth. You lived them all with such great intention, grace, dignity, beauty, and power. I want to learn from you. So that I can live each of my years to come with this kind of intention. One of my earliest memories of you were glimpses of you in Roots, but watching The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman as a young Black teen girl is what deeply drew my heart to you. You became 110-year-old ex-enslaved Jane Pittman right before my eyes. You took and honored her story and you gave it to the rest of us, so we would know her. You brought people to life. The gift and function of story captured my heart very early in life and seeing that movie, seeing you act and tell and show one woman’s story so powerfully, sometimes with just the simple gesture of a movement on your face to inflect an emotion or what you didn’t say or do, to hold to the integrity of telling and showing a scene you were in, you did this with excellence. At the core of who we all are as humans, our stories are the connecting bond between us. Our humanity moves between us, through our stories. And you told stories, you gave them life time and time and time and time again, on the big screen, on the little screen, and on stage plays around the world. You are a forever example of #BlackQueenMagic for brown-skinned girls and women to glean from as we show up as our complete and full selves in this world, at the tables we’re invited to and the ones we build for ourselves. Thank you for holding and fighting for our honor, our dignity in the spaces you stepped into. Thank you for what you gave to us. Rest in peace and in the Lord’s great power. You are beloved.
“Throughout her career Tyson refused to play drug addicts, prostitutes or maids, roles she thought demeaning to Black women. But when a good part came along she grabbed hold of it with tenacity.” – Carmel Dagan, Variety Magazine