NEW YORK—Tyler Perry was among the attendees of a private memorial service for award-winning, groundbreaking actress Cicely Tyson at Harlem’s famed Abyssinian Baptist Church.
Gospel singer Bebe Winans sang “Stand”—a request from Tyson before her death—and a letter was read by rocker Lenny Kravitz, who was a close friend.
“The ceremony was beautiful. It was very Cicely Tyson: It was formal, it was humorous, it was sad, it was glorious,” said Larry Thompson, Tyson’s manager for more than 40 years.
Reporters were not permitted inside but several mourners stopped to share their thoughts afterward. Abyssinian Baptist’s pastor, the Rev. Calvin O. Butts, said Cicely Tyson was an example of “a life well lived and an example of how we all might live,” adding, “She was as much an ambassador for peace and love as anybody I can think of.”
He noted that Tyson’s service fell during Black History Month, giving us “another illustration of some of the great people who have contributed to American arts and culture.”
The Feb. 16 memorial service came a day after hundreds of admirers of the pioneering Black actress lined up outside the church for a public viewing. Some said they had come from as far as Atlanta or Los Angeles to be there. Many in the multigenerational crowd on Feb.
15 held photos of Tyson, who died Jan. 28. The New York-born actress whose parents were from the Caribbean was 96. Men of the Fruit of Islam (FOI), the male members of the Nation of Islam paid their respects, many holding the edition of The Final Call newspaper which paid tribute to the legendary actress. Ms. Tyson and the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan were cousins.
During the Feb. 16 ceremony, the sun broke through the clouds and the temperature rose past 40 for the first time in the snowy city in more than a week. Her casket was carried to a hearse by six pallbearers in white tie and tails. (Compiled from Associated Press reports. Final Call staff contributed to this report.)