NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Hundreds of people paid their final respects to legendary actress Cicely Tyson.
On Monday, a public viewing was being held at the Abyssinian Baptist Church, where Tyson was a member.
As CBS2’s Aundrea Cline-Thomas reported, the first person arrived at 6 a.m.
It was no secret Tyson loved Harlem, and Harlem loved her right back.
Monday marked the beginning of a final farewell. Lines wrapped around the block as people waited to pay their last respects to Tyson.
“As soon I heard about it I booked my flight and said there’s no way I’m missing it. I dreamed one day of meeting her, just getting a photo or shaking her hand. But it didn’t happen that way, so I had to come pay my respects,” said Eric Henton, who came from Miami and was among the first in line.
“I got up at six o’clock this morning, got dressed to make sure I was among the first 10 people in line,” Henton added.
The line to pay respects to #CicelyTyson wraps around the block. Everyone is bundled up, some brought pictures as the love for Ms Tyson oozes out of every corner of this Harlem community. @CBSNewYork pic.twitter.com/HySIKF92ol
— Aundrea Cline-Thomas (@AClineThomas) February 15, 2021
Tyson died on Jan. 28 at 96 years old.
Her casket gingerly rolled past gates adorned with purple bows — the color of royalty — as pallbearers prepared for the public viewing.
“She showed dignity and regalness. She showed to stand by what you believe in,” one person said.
Tyson’s roles in “Sounder,” “The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pitman” and so many other films and television shows earned her critical acclaim. But her impact reached far beyond that. From wearing natural hairstyles on TV to only taking roles that humanized the Black experience, Tyson did not just set a standard — she was the standard.
“It’s really a loss for people who are into her and know what she did and achieved. She is the cornerstone to a lot of people. A trailblazer who has been here for so many moons,” said West Side resident Patricia Ann Ellerbe.
A cornerstone especially in Harlem, her home that she never abandoned. And her church, the famed Abyssinian Baptist, where her public viewing was being held.
“It was important for us to be here. I would’ve stood in the rain, the snow. The weather doesn’t matter,” said Rebecca Richwine.
They were all standing for Tyson, a woman who withstood so much, and blazed the trail for future generations.
The public viewing was scheduled to end at 6 p.m., followed Tuesday by an invitation-only private memorial service.