NEW YORK (AP) – Tyler Perry and Bill and Hillary Clinton were among those in attendance at a private memorial service for Cicely Tyson at Harlem’s famed Abyssinian Baptist Church.
Gospel singer Bebe Winans sang “Stand,” a request from Tyson before his death, and rocker Lenny Kravitz, who was a close friend, read a letter.
“The ceremony was beautiful. It was very Cicely Tyson – it was formal, it was funny, it was sad, it was glorious, ”said Larry Thompson, Tyson’s manager for more than 40 years.
The journalists were not allowed to enter, but several mourners stopped later to share their thoughts.
Abyssinian Baptist pastor, the Rev. Calvin O. Butts, said Tyson was an example of “a life well lived and an example of how we could all live,” adding, “She was an ambassador of peace and love so much Like any other person. I can think. “
He noted that Tyson’s service fell during Black History Month, which gave us “another illustration of some of the great people who have contributed to American arts and culture.”
Tuesday’s memorial service came a day after hundreds of fans of the pioneering black actor 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.
During the ceremony, the sun broke through the clouds and the temperature rose to more than 40 for the first time in the snowy city in more than a week. His coffin was carried to a hearse by six pallbearers in white ties and tails.
Tyson died on January 28. The New York-born actor was 96 years old.
Faye Wattleton, a reproductive rights activist who was friends with Tyson for more than 30 years, said: “She was 96 but we thought she would live to at least 100. People like her never really leave. Hopefully, she’s feeling all the love we’ve given her today. “
Also in attendance were Valerie Simpson of the duo Ashford & Simpson, stylist Ellin LaVar and Emmy-nominated choreographer George Faison, who said she knew Tyson through her ex-husband, Miles Davis.
“They are now united in heaven and I am glad I was here to say goodbye to her,” Faison said. “She was a wonderful woman.”
Tyson was the first black woman to have a recurring role in a dramatic television series, the 1963 drama “East Side, West Side.” Her performance as the wife of a sharecropper in the 1972 film “Sounder” cemented her stardom and earned her an Oscar nomination.
She went on to win two Emmy Awards for playing the 110-year-old former slave in the 1974 television drama “The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman” and another Emmy 20 years later for “The Oldest Confederate Widow Says It All.”
At age 88, Tyson won a Tony Award for Horton Foote’s 2013 revival of “The Trip to Bountiful”. President Barack Obama awarded him the Medal of Freedom in 2016.
Joseph Joubart played the piano during the service and said it was a moment he would never forget. “It was a really moving experience and it was a tribute to the great lady that she was – an icon, a legend.”
Mark Kennedy is in http://twitter.com/KennedyTwits