Prison Radio
Mumia Abu-Jamal

“Madame Cicely Tyson.”

From the Negro stage to the glittering lights of film, the long career of Cicely Tyson radiated through lifetimes. On December 19th, 1924, Cicely Tyson was born in East Harlem and, despite a religious mother’s opposition, she was drawn to the stage.

Despite dozens of films, TV roles, and performances on the live stage, she refused to portray her people in a less-than-dignified light. For this, [inaudible] lost and wasn’t offered a number of roles. But like her colleagues, the late Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee, one would be hard-pressed to find a shameful performance.

In 1972, Tyson received an Oscar nomination for Best Actress for her performance in the movie Sounder, opposite Paul Winfield, for her portrayal of a wife and mother of a Louisiana sharecropper family.

Two years later, she would dazzle audiences in the CBS miniseries, The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman, where she played a woman over 100 years old, who lived to see the rise of the civil rights movement. Funny thing though, the real Cicely Tyson lived to be 96 years old, and still she radiated vitality and beauty.

For almost a decade, Tyson was married to the jazz master and genius Miles Davis. In her later years, she appeared in many movies made by Tyler Perry in which she played the elder female wisdom figure. She inspired generations of actors and taught through her life work what it meant to demand respect.

From imprisoned nation, this is Mumia Abu-Jamal.

These commentaries are recorded by Noelle Hanrahan of Prison Radio.