Note: Before she ever introduced herself to the world as an author, the late, great Cicely Tyson gracefully captured our attention and admiration with her mastery skills as an actress.

From the stage to the big screen, she conquered the artistic universe, fulfilling her mission to, “alter the narrative about Black people–to change the way Black women in particular were perceived, by reflecting our dignity,” (Tyson, Cicely. Just As I Am. New York: HarperCollins, 2021). 

Dear Ms. Tyson, 

My name is Takeah Latimore, and–if I may be so bold as to fangirl for a moment–your autobiography orbits my mental space every single day. Enough so, that I often find myself returning to your memoir to re-read, add to my annotations, or simply bask in our kindred perspective on various social occurrences. 

Perhaps, I should start at the beginning…

I became acquainted with you before I even reached school-aged. In fact, Mama’s Flora’s Family is the first film I have a cognitive memory of. The second is Love Jones (don’t ask LOL). When I entered middle school years and rewatched Mama’s Flora’s Family, I remember thinking… I want to do that!

What is that I was referring to? Well, it wasn’t acting (at least; it wasn’t until I saw Kyla Pratt starring in One on-One; again, don’t ask). The actual discovery made that day by pre-teen Takeah Latimore, was how I wanted to create stories that made people feel, reflect, and be proud to be Black.

When your autobiography came out in 2021, I eagerly dove right in.

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Throughout your lifetime, there’s been little to no information regarding who Cicely Tyson was at her core. And while some of it may be pure human nosiness, my interest in learning more about you, was simply because of how much your presence on that black and brown rear projection screen TV sparked my passion to write stories. An interpersonal tidbit I ended up uncovering as I digested Just As I Am.

I could write several pages with copious variations of my appreciation for the gift you unknowingly helped this little Black girl from Ohio discover. However, I will show some restraint.

Growing up, my papa encouraged me to listen whenever my elders spoke. He said that is how I would learn what I needed and then some.

Ms. Tyson, thank you for speaking about your life in your book. For dropping gems from cover to cover, to help one navigate every stage of this crazy thing called life. For making it very plain that to be Black is beautiful. And for reminding all who read of your trailblazing greatness, “things just don’t happen–they happen just.”

Precisely as they did in 1998. On the Southside of a city in Ohio. Where a little Black girl happened just to pursue her dreams of storytelling.

With many thanks and much more reverence, 

Takeah Latimore 💙

Sis, if you would like to submit a letter to your favorite author click HERE.



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