Students of Cicely Tyson Community School remember the icon following death at 96
Cicely Tyson is being remembered across New Jersey as a trailblazer and icon. The actress died on Thursday at age 96.
Tyson leaves a remarkable legacy in TV, film and theater. But her legacy also lives on through students at the performing arts school in East Orange that bears her name.
“She always singled you out and made you feel special,” says actor and singer Elijah Ahmad Lewis, a graduate of the Cicely Tyson Community School for Performing and Fine Arts.
Tyson would often visit the students and participated in theater events.
"She was not just a namesake. She was actively involved year after year,” says former principal Dr. Passion Moss-Hasan. “That says a lot about her legacy.”
Tyson, an Emmy and Tony-award winner and style icon, shattered racial barriers in Hollywood. Her 70-year career included film and television roles in “Sounder,” “Roots,” “The Help,” and most recently, “How to Get Away with Murder.” She was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2016.
“As big as an icon as she was, she made herself available to the students,” says current principal John English.
Tyson last spoke with students virtually a few weeks ago.
Lewis, who was appearing on Broadway in “Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations” until the COVID shutdown, says that Tyson was an early believer in his talents.
“She pulled me aside and she said, ‘Listen, you have it.’ She said. ‘Do you want to be on Broadway?’ Of course, yes. She was like, ‘Of course. Listen, keep doing what you’re doing and working as hard as you are and you’ll get there before you know it,’” Lewis says.