The Black Monarchs Tyson & Jones rename Harlem Street & Broadway Theater – Caribbean Life

An acclaimed king of the stage and revered queen of the screen recently received high honors when actors James Earl Jones and Cicely Tyson were lavished as tokens of appreciation by communities who honored them by renaming a theater and a street from Broadway to Harlem.

“We have always acknowledged our kings and queens,” radio personality Gary Byrd said recently, “throughout history, when others have ignored our deities and our royal status, we have always known that we wore the crown.”

Decades ago, Byrd recorded “The Crown,” a song that Stevie Wonder released and released on his Wondirection Record label.

The single captured global attention, topping the charts in England with lyrics that regale a long list of Africans who he says “wear the crown”.

Recently, the names of two comedians added credence to his claim.

At a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the Centennial Cort Theater – located at West 48e St. — the James Earl Jones Theater launched an era of diversity in the theater industry.

Located between Sixth and Seventh Avenues, the Broadway venue is only the second named after a black man.

The other is named after playwright August Wilson.

On September 17, a Caribbean-themed block party celebrated Cicely Tyson Way, a newly designated town marker located at the thoroughfare of 101st between 3rd Ave. and Lexington Ave. where the legendary actress grew up at 178 East 101st St.

Born in the Bronx, her Caribbean parents from Nevis soon after moved to East Harlem.

The island twin won her coveted theater award for her leading role in 2013, for the Broadway hit ‘The Trip To Bountiful’.

To her credit, she also won accolades and three Emmys portraying strong female characters in “Sounder”, “The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman”, “Roots” and “The Color Purple”.

Tyson received the Kennedy Center Honors Lifetime Achievement Award in 2015; the following year, President Barack Obama named her the recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

As if those top honors weren’t enough, Tyson’s peers in the film industry presented her with an honorary trophy at the Oscars in 2018 – which sealed her status as a Triple Crown winner.

“She is our queen…all hail the queen!” shouted longtime fan Avril Daley.

Community activist and radio host Felipe Luciano echoed that sentiment during his Saturday show “Latin Roots (Routes)” airing on WBAI-FM.

New York City Council member Diana Ayala attended the unveiling and spoke at a tribute ceremony that included special appearances from the Dance Theater of Harlem, El Barrio Poet Laureate Jesús Papoleto Meléndez, of the poet Juan Papa Santiago, the Dominican folk dance troupe, the Caribbean-American Sports, the Youth Movement Steel Orchestra and other recognized members of the community.

DJ Krayze and Liquitone Entertainment crowned the regalia by playing dance hits that East Harlem locals reveled in late into the night.

Ironically, on September 12, Tyson’s theater collaborator received similar attention for his unparalleled contribution when a VIP crowd showed up to celebrate the 91-year-old actor and the dedication of the James Earl Jones Theater.

Acclaimed for his roles in 21 Broadway plays, a generation recognized his voice as the television network’s signature locator who periodically announced “it’s CNN.”

Although identified by his distinctive tone as Mufasa in “The Lion King” and Darth Vader in “Star Wars”, Jones has also performed in theater productions at the venue he now commands.

He performed there for the first time in the early fifties in “Sunrise at Campobello”.

Since then, he has won three Tony Awards and is among the elite winners of actor status called EGOT – Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony.

In 1991, Jones became the only actor to receive two Tony Awards in the same year.

Jones is also a recipient of the National Medal of Arts and the Kennedy Center Honor. He was crowned king of the ring for his performance of “The Great White Hope” in 1969 and covered in platitudes while playing alongside Diahann Carroll in “Claudine.”

But most memorable was his stellar performance in August Wilson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning “Fences” in 1987.

Among the celebrities who attended the lavish ceremony were actors Samuel L. Jackson and his wife, actress LaTanya Richardson Jackson, choreographer Debbie Allen, actress Phylicia Rashad, filmmaker Lee Daniels, Brian Stokes Mitchell and Norm Lewis ( the first black actor to play the Phantom in The Phantom of the Opera”) and Mayor Eric Adams.

“Today’s renaming of this freshly renovated venue to the James Earl Jones Theater recognizes all that he contributed, an imprint that this immensely gifted actor, performer and frontman left on our vibrant Broadway community,” Adams said.

Ironically, the People’s Monarchs last shared the stage when they co-starred in the revival of “The Gin Game” seven years ago.

The two Tony Award-winning actors first appeared together 50 years ago in ‘A Hand is On The Gate’.

They also appeared Off-Broadway in “The Blacks” and in the film The River Niger and the TV movie “Heat Wave”.

The theatrical queen of Harlem died last year at the age of 96.

“Long live the king, long may he reign.”


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