This was long overdue!
East 101st Street, between 3rd and Lexington Avenue, was just renamed Cicely Tyson Way, Ebony reports.
Cicely Tyson was a remarkable actress who began gracing us with her presence on the theater stage, big screen or the television at 18 years old — all while shattering racial glass ceilings. She blazed a trail for future Black actors/actresses and stayed true to herself by turning down any role that required her to depict Black people in a degrading manner. Her movie background is extensive; she starred in Sounder, The Help, Fried Green Tomatoes, and a number of Madea films.
Within the course of Tyson’s 70-year career, she’s earned five NAACP Image Awards; three Emmys; a Presidential Medal of Freedom; a Tony; a Kennedy Center Honors and an honorary oscar. She was the first Black woman to receive an Academy Honorary Award, and Turner Classic Movie even honored her with a hand and footprint ceremony. She moved to Harlem at 3-years-old and grew up in a walk-up building at 178 East 101st Street. She passed away in January 2021 at the age of 96, and the star’s legacy was recently honored and celebrated in her hometown of East Harlem by co-naming East 101st Street to Cicely Tyson Way.
This was all made possible by the Cicely Tyson Street Renaming and Landmark Committee, formed by the Honorable Diana Ayala, Taina Traverso, and Nina M Saxon. Another contributor to the project, Deborah Quinones, said, “We just wanted to really commemorate her contributions to the arts and just celebrate where she came from.” After gathering many signatures, the New York City Council approved the street renaming. A ceremony was held to celebrate the unveiling on September 17th, and the icon’s friends and family were in attendance. Also present was the New York City Council deputy speaker, the Dance Theater of Harlem, Poet Laureate of El Barrio Jesús Papoleto Meléndez, poet Juan Papa Santiago, the Dominican Folklore Dance Troupe, the Caribbean-American Sports, and Youth Movement Steel Orchestra.
Associate professor of cinema and media studies at Cornell University, Samantha Sheppard, said, “She really is a groundbreaking, career-making, path-defining Black actress for her community, but also for the American public. To recognize the impact that she’s made on American popular culture in this way is significant because we also don’t really see that many versions of recognition, particularly for Black actresses.”
Tyson is also a role model to members of her family; she inspired her 12-year-old great-great niece, Bria Henry, who said, “I want to be an actress too, so I look up to her.” She also has family members who are more than proud and were overjoyed to be a part of the ceremony, such as her nephew Reginald A. Henry who said, “My heart is warm that so many people came out to enjoy the day. She’d be thankful, she’d be humbled.”
Residents of Harlem were pleased to be a part of the celebration. One East Harlem resident, Barbara Diaz, said, “I have never been to any unveiling ever and to be in the one with Cicely Tyson… AMAZING.” Another longtime resident said, “This is what our kids need to see, I want all schools here to come and see Cicely Tyson Way.” Many local businesses honored Tyson’s legacy as well by offering discounts and specials.
May you receive all your flowers. Congratulations, Ms. Tyson!
Photos: Getty Images/Google Maps