Actress, activist and humanitarian Cicely Tyson will
be the featured guest for Johns Hopkins' annual Martin
Luther King Jr. birthday remembrance, an event that takes
place this year from noon to 1:30 p.m. on Friday, Jan.
Begun in 1982, the Johns Hopkins Martin Luther King
Jr. Commemoration honors the Nobel Peace Prize winner's
legacy of nonviolent activism and community service. It
will take place in Turner Auditorium on the East Baltimore
campus and will be broadcast to several other university
and health system locations.
Keynote speaker for the event is Tyson, a respected
and honored talent in American theater and film, who has
become an equally admired and dedicated activist and
humanitarian. Tyson will also receive the Ideals Award in
recognition of her outstanding service and commitment to
Levi Watkins, founder of the Martin Luther King Jr.
Commemoration Celebration and chair of its committee, said
that Tyson follows in the tradition of speakers who knew
King personally or who were spurred on by his words.
"She was inspired and motivated by Dr. King to become
a pioneer and leader in the world of the performing arts,
which she became," said Watkins, associate dean for
postdoctoral programs and professor of
surgery at the School of Medicine. "She's also become a
leader in the Civil Rights movement and a wonderful and
A native of New York, Tyson began her career in the
1950s as a fashion model. Her first film was an uncredited
role in Carib Gold in 1957.
Tyson is perhaps best known for her performance in the
title role of The Autobiography of Miss Jane
Pittman, in which she played a slave woman ranging in
age from 19 to 110 and for which she received an
unprecedented two Emmy Awards. In addition, she won an Emmy
for best supporting actress in the TV film The Oldest
Confederate Widow Tells All and was nominated for an
Emmy for the NBC series Sweet Justice.
Since the mid-1970s, Tyson has been active in world
affairs and humanitarian efforts. As a chairperson for
UNICEF, Tyson in 1985 traveled throughout Africa on a
fact-finding mission. In 1988, the president of Zimbabwe
invited her to participate in a conference called "Children
on the Front Line." That same year she flew to the Ivory
Coast to assist in the fund raising for the formation of
the children's organization Ndaya.
A champion for youth, Tyson each year sets aside one
month to visit college campuses across the country and
speak to students on such topics as human rights,
education, race relations, teen pregnancy and self-esteem.
In 1996, the New Jersey Board of Education renamed an
East Orange middle and high school, which has 700 primarily
underprivileged students, the Cicely Tyson School of
Performing and Fine Arts. Tyson teaches a master class
there, and says that she considers the naming one of her
most meaningful accolades.
She holds a record 12 Image Awards as best actress
from the NAACP and has received awards from such civil
rights organizations as PUSH, CORE, the SCLC and the Martin
Luther King Jr. Center, among others.
In 1974, Tyson co-founded the internationally
celebrated Dance Theater of Harlem. She currently serves on
its board, as well as on the boards of the American Film
Institute, Urban Gateways and the NAACP Legal Defense and
Education Fund. A founding member of the Coalition for a
Healthy and Active America, Tyson in 2002 was appointed by
President George W. Bush as a commissioner of the National
African American Museum of History and Culture.
In 2003, Tyson received the National Women's Law
Center Award, the Ellis Island Family Heritage Award and
was a featured speaker at the Fortune Most Powerful Women
The Johns Hopkins Ideals Award, an occasionally
bestowed honor, will be presented to Tyson at Friday's MLK
Jr. Commemoration, which typically draws about 1,000
The celebration also will include the 12th annual
Martin Luther King Jr. Community Service Awards ceremony,
in which seven individual Hopkins employees and a team of
four from JHH will be honored for demonstrating through
community service the spirit of volunteerism and
citizenship that characterized King's life.
The Unified Voices Choir, a gospel group whose ranks
include Hopkins staff and community members, will provide
Those who are unable to attend in person can view the
event on closed-circuit television at Homewood's Hodson
Hall; APL's Kossiakoff Center; Bayview's Carroll
Auditorium; and JHH's Tilghman Auditorium in Hurd Hall and
Patient Channel 60.