Mourners from New York City and beyond waited in lines for hours on Monday (February 15) to pay their respects to acting pioneer Cicely Tyson.
Ms. Tyson, who lay in repose at the historic Abyssinian Baptist Church in her native Harlem, died on January 28 at the age of 96.
Despite of the frigid winter temperatures, hundreds came to the church where Ms. Tyson was a 30-year member to say good-bye to Harlem’s “trueborn Queen,” as reported by The New York Times.
“I am here to continue to celebrate the life of a national treasure,” Lisa Hayes, a lawyer from Harlem told the outlet. “We are here as we would do for anyone whom we love.”
Ms. Tyson’s ground-breaking career spanned 70 years and paved the way for Black entertainers in Hollywood for generations.
In East Harlem, where Ms. Tyson was born and raised, her work lives on. In 1969, Ms. Tyson helped found the Dance Theatre of Harlem, and purchased a pew at Abyssinian Baptist Church in honor of her mother. Her other support of the arts, although quiet, was never not felt by her community and those impacted by her actions.
“We uphold our queen simply because she held us up high,” said Evelyn Jemmott-Jackson, a science teacher in NYC who made the trip to Harlem from Brooklyn to pay respects to Ms. Tyson. “That her family has allowed us to pay our final respects is amazing.”
A private memorial is being held Tuesday (February 16) at Abyssinian and drew attendance from Bill and Hillary Clinton, Tyler Perry, and Valerie Simpson of Ashford & Simpson.
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