On Jan. 28, 2021, the world lost a well-loved 96-year-old Black actress who paved the way for others who also wanted to appear on big and small screens. According to CNN, Cicely Tyson’s extensive filmography includes some of the most celebrated movies and television shows featuring Black women in major roles. Sounder (1972), The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman (1974), Roots (1977), The Marva Collins Story (1981), The Women of Brewster Place (1989), and The Help (2011) sit high among her credits.
After the icon’s death, The Cicely Tyson Street Naming and Landmarking Committee (CTSNMC) emerged with an idea to do something special for Tyson while preserving her legacy. According to a Change.org petition, founding members are Councilwoman Diana Ayala, Nina Saxon, Taina Traverso, and Debbie Quinones.
“The committee seeks to rename East 101st Street from Lexington Avenue to Third Avenue as Cicely Tyson Way,” a statement on the petition website read. “The project phases one of a larger community heritage initiative that will transform the site into a tourist destination with a festival and a campaign to landmark Ms. Tyson’s childhood residence at 178 East 101 St.”
The petition also described Tyson as an inspirational, international intergenerational icon and proud representative of El Barrio and Harlem, while stating that Tyson’s ‘influence went beyond acting to encompass racial and gender equity, among other causes.’
“She was a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama in 2016 and an honorary member of the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc., NYC.,” the petition continued.
Almost 900 supporters have signed the petition.
Harlem Patch recently reported that a plan is now underway to rename the block—consisting of East 101st on both avenues— in her honor. Tyson reportedly grew up in a building on East 101st Street between Lexington and Third Avenues. She maintained her Harlem roots, despite her rise to fame. Groups who want Tyson to be honored are pushing for the block’s renaming.
“At a Tuesday night community board meeting, a neighborhood group presented its plans to rename East 101st Street between Lexington and Third avenues as “Cicely Tyson Way,” Harlem Patch stated. “Aiming to comply with city rules, the group has gathered dozens of signatures from neighbors supporting the proposal, as well as 14 letters of support from groups like El Museo del Barrio, Landmark East Harlem and the New York chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, of which Tyson was an honorary member.”
Harlem Patch added that the City Council would most likely vote on the subject later this year.