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Sharpe-Jefferson: Actress Cicely Tyson Epitomized the Strong Black Woman

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By Keisa Sharpe-Jefferson

It may have been a strange reaction, but when I heard the news of the passing of iconic actress Cicely Tyson, there was no grief associated with it. My initial response was peace. And then there came the smile.

What a life she lived. What a gift she shared with us all – right up until she left this world.

When we remember Ms. Tyson, we will remember a strong Black woman who: followed the gift that was placed in her heart; inspired and uplifted others through her work and sheer tenacity and re-wrote the rules of what was considered the societal norm.

We will remember her because she was bold enough to pursue and live out her life purpose with no restraint.

And in doing so, she uplifted her community by frequently taking roles showcasing strong Black women.

More recently she appeared in a number of Tyler Perry movies, but does anyone remember The “Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman”? What about “Sounder” or “Roots”?

We will continue to enjoy her talent because she dedicated herself to the gift of acting. But if we stop there, we miss half of her life’s message.

In taking a note from Cicely Tyson, your age, hair type, nor the color of your brown skin can disqualify you from the mantle of honor that God bestows upon you.

Her life, for me, is a lesson in character, courage, gifting and strength.

It’s proof that, at a time when there are many heated discussions about race and Black culture in particular, that the one thing that permeates it all, is being true to your gift and calling.

Everyone can respect that.

A note to my sisters (no disrespect brothers) – pursue the gift God has placed in you and all else will (eventually) fall in order.

February is “the” month the world recognizes and celebrates our culture, but in my humble opinion, our roots should be celebrated by us each day.

You come from a legacy of strength. Our ancestors and mothers were powerful examples of resilience.

Allow this revelation to fuel the history that you make each day too.

Not everyone will become a Hollywood legend, but you’re re-writing your own history, too.

It’s made in the steps of the determined teenage mother who was counted out early on, but determines to move forward and make a great living for her family. Or look at the seasoned sister who continues to believe love is possible again despite experiencing the pain of broken relationships.

Better yet, we can see it on the face of the mother who has lost a child, but continues to “mother” other children to whom she’s connected because she refuses to give up hope.

For her life’s work and dedication to her craft, Ms. Tyson was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom and earned her place in the Television Hall of Fame.

Your life will also be recorded one day and I ask you to ponder a serious thought….what will it display? 

If there was an award to be given, what would you want to receive?

It’s not too late add some powerful notes to help potentially “sway” the jury of life.

In fact, here’s sage advice from the incomparable Tyson, in her final interview with CBS This Morning anchor Gayle King: “I feel like as long as you’re still breathing, you have work to do.”

Your life work awaits. Your audience is ready to receive. It’s your move.

As I reflect on the life of the legendary actress and the powerful imagery she solidified of strong Black women, I’ll close with this thought.

The best example of success you can leave is a life and purpose vividly experienced, allowing your gifts to be on full display for others to see and enjoy. 

You have — and always will have — the power to make that happen strong Black woman.

Know that I’m cheering for you.

Keisa Sharpe-Jefferson is a life coach, author and speaker. Her column appears on the first and third Thursdays of each month online and in The Birmingham Times. You can contact Keisa at keisa@keisasharpe.com and visit http://www.allsheanaturals.com for natural hair and body products.