NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The Harlem community is among the many remembering trailblazing actress Cicely Tyson, who died Thursday at age 96.
“Cicely Tyson was royalty beyond an icon,” Harlem resident Dakota Rivers said.READ MORE: New York State Legislature Votes To Curb Gov. Cuomo's Emergency Powers
Tyson was a Harlem jewel, a woman who gave her gift to the world.
Rivers says that present spoke volumes to those who saw the legendary Harlem actress as a beacon of hope.
“You didn’t see us on camera before that, right? I think [‘The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman’] was the first thing I ever saw her in, and it was just like, you didn’t see Black women on film,” Rivers said. “She was like a grandmother that I never met.”
But for those who did get to meet her, Tyson was a lot more.
Rev. Calvin Butts got to know Tyson over the last 20 years after she became a member of his church, Abyssinian Baptist Church on West 138th Street.
“She was clearly a diva, but a diva with grace,” Butts told CBS2’s Cory James.
He says she was more than an Oscar, a woman with a great soul and spirit.
Butts told CBS2 he got to witness that just days ago inside his church.
“She was full of life. She looked good. She was chuckling at different things, and she was just a wonderful, wonderful lady,” he said.
PHOTO GALLERY: Remembering Groundbreaking Actress Cicely Tyson
Rev. Al Sharpton got to know Tyson when he was a teenager. Through their decades-long relationship, he says he saw a woman who never lost touch with her roots.
“She would not let you talk about Harlem in a negative. She would always say of the high moments and the great artistry and the culture and the people,” Sharpton said. “She did not leave Harlem to go mainstream. She made mainstream come and celebrate Harlem … and her grace and her presence spoke for itself.”
“She’s now moved from labor to reward. Good to the last drop, she certainly was,” Butts said.
“The only thing that would have been worse than losing her is to have never had her in the first place,” Sharpton said.
Tributes also poured in online.
New York officials, including public advocate Jumaane Williams and Congressman Jamaal Bowman, reacted on Twitter. Tyson was born and grew up in the city.
Williams tweeted, “ANOTHER…#ICONIC…LEGEND!!!”
Bowman described Tyson as a “pioneer for Black people on the big screen.”
Rest in Peace to New York’s own, Cicely Tyson. A pioneer for Black people on the big screen, a presidential Medal of Freedom recipient, and a giant in American culture.
You will be missed. https://t.co/CyLHqd3XxG
— Jamaal Bowman (@JamaalBowmanNY) January 29, 2021
Actress Vanessa Williams, who starred in the Broadway play “The Trip to Bountiful” alongside Tyson in 2013, posted, “I’m gutted.”
In another post, she wrote, “Sharing the Broadway stage with her 8 shows a week was the true life lesson of witnessing fortitude, power and the Holy Spirit in front of my eyes.”READ MORE: Brooklyn Mom Wants NYC Apartments Inspected Annually After Parts Of Ceiling Crash Down On 12-Year-Old Son
Actor Blair Underwood, who joined Williams and Tyson in the touring production of the play, wrote, “Every night on stage, every day on that set, I was learning at the hands of an absolute master of her craft … My heart is heavy. Thank you Ms. Tyson for paving the way, thank you for your grace & thank you, Your Majesty for lifting us to higher heights!”
A number of other celebrities who knew her also posted tributes.
Thank you Cicely Tyson… for everything… pic.twitter.com/6LslgGYtOx
— Gayle King (@GayleKing) January 29, 2021
Cicely Tyson 🙏🏾🕊 pic.twitter.com/5TO7LL2mlx
— Oprah Winfrey (@Oprah) January 29, 2021
She was a consummate pro and all class and I was so fortunate to have worked with her on "Sweet Justice." But my best memory was traveling with her through Russia for a film festival, as she told us wonderful stories. Hollywood truly lost an icon today. RIP Cicely Tyson 😢🤟 pic.twitter.com/w0rtPCrCl1
— Marlee Matlin (@MarleeMatlin) January 29, 2021
Though we are not related, her mother was friends with my grandmother in the West Indies, with strongly resonant struggles and triumphs.
Farewell to a force of nature unto herself — in person, on stage, and on the screen. Cicely Tyson, RIP (1924-2021) pic.twitter.com/w1s7KhnTuI
— Neil deGrasse Tyson (@neiltyson) January 29, 2021
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The world lost a trailblazer today. #CicelyTyson paved the way for so many artists after her and beautifully portrayed iconic roles such as Harriett Tubman and my mother, Coretta Scott King. Rest in peace, Cicely. You will be missed. pic.twitter.com/TMsHzWhpFL
— Martin Luther King III (@OfficialMLK3) January 29, 2021
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