Cicely Tyson, featured in the cast photo far left, flatters in every light. She has passed on (1924-2021). The day of the Full Moon. A great power.
I’m sure a film historian or artist biographer could write something much more profound about Miss Tyson. But I’m going to tell you this. She acted in films that made you proud to be Black or a woman or poor or struggling. None of these things are strictly tragic roles. She uplifted what was heavy. She took her light and made you look at what’s dark.
The above photo is from the series The Women of Brewster Place based on the book by Gloria Naylor. It highlights the lives of the women living in a tenement home. They are all Black archetypes, “representation” before I knew what it was or that I needed it. It premiered in 1989. Even as a child I saw myself reflected in the pain of these people on the margins. Trying to survive with their dignity in tact. Demanding dignity no matter the lifestyle.
Thank you Miss Tyson, for all the work you’ve done. In gratitude for the legacy you leave behind. In honor of the life of a Black girl born in 1924.
My great aunt, born Marion Moss, died yesterday at the age of 94. To be born Black and female in 1926. My grandfather‘s sisters all outlived him, and rightfully so.
And in my father’s voice was the muffled pain of losing a generation. A strong woman. A generous woman. The last of the Moss’s.
The last of a group of cousins who changed their family name due to racist aggression by white teachers. Years later, some changed it back. We hold unnecessarily hyphenated family reunions.
*A note on moss: Only mosses have a multicellular rhizoid, a root-like subterranean tissue that absorbs water and nutrients from the soil…Mosses have radial symmetry, in that a cut down the long axis of an individual gives two similar halves.
We’ve always been a whole. Even if a mess…a whole hell of a mess of moss.