An educator’s view of Cicely Tyson’s book, Just As I Am

I’m reading Cicely Tyson’s book, Just As I Am, before beginning my tutoring day. She speaks of the touring engagements she did for the movie, Sounder, one of my all-time favorite movies. On the bias that she witnessed during that tour she says that there was an assumption about black people/families, by many that, “You are not like me. You are intrinsically different. And that difference deems you inferior.” Even Cicely Tyson saw the racism in this country. But even though her anger would have been a justified response, she chose to educate through the many roles that she would choose throughout her career. (I’m no Cicely Tyson. I get angry often.) But she says something else in the book that I’ve always known and yet it didn’t hit me hard until I read the words in only a way she could speak/write them. She says, “resentment corrodes the veins of the one who carries it.” She goes on to say that the bias/beliefs that the reporters carried was not something she needed to nurse bitterness for, but were lessons to be heeded. She instead leaned in, listened intently and made a final choice to educate through her craft. I like the choice she made and how she went about “educating” others about the quality of the black soul, particularly through the roles of the women she portrayed. In 2021, it blows my mind that in this country we are STILL addressing the bias and systemic racism that this country has carried and stewed in for centuries. But I’ll be honest and say that I like the way that Cicely Tyson chose to address that bias/racism. She made it her life’s work to “educate” by example. There have been many books that I’ve read that have changed my perspective on life and how I address it as I move through my journey. I am absolutely certain that Cicely Tyson’s Just As I Am will be another one of those books. Thank you, Angel Cicely Tyson, for this body of work.

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