The Christian Faith of Actress Cicely Tyson, Viewing to be Held at Abyssinian Baptist Church Feb. 15 & More…

Hello World,

I find it profoundly mysterious that two days after beloved, award-winning actress and my Delta sorority sister Cicely Tyson released the lone book that she penned about her life and life’s work, the Lord took her from the earthly realm to the heavenly realm. It was as if to say now that her life and life’s work were chronicled in her memoir Just As I Am (the title taken from the heralded hymn that inspired her as a teenager), there was nothing left to be or to do. She was blessed to live 96 years and had the strength to work up until the very end as she was promoting her memoir in various interviews. While many of us were likely familiar with much of her work from Roots to The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman to various Tyler Perry movies to How to Get Away With Murder to most recently Cherish the Day (and this is just a sampling of her work), I, for one, was not aware of her Christian faith that sustained her throughout her life. But her pastor Rev. Calvin Butts III of the well-known Abyssinian Baptist Church in New York City, where her public viewing will be held on on Monday, Feb. 15 (10 a.m. to 6 p.m.) was keenly aware of her Christian faith. Below are a few excerpts from Cicely Tyson’s Pastor Remembers her Faith as Family Announces Public Viewing by Leonardo Blair of The Christian Post.

“She had a place in our church where she would sit. She bought that pew in memory of her mother. We don’t sell pews so that people can sit in them, but she donated to our church and she asked that when she was here if she could sit there, and of course, we agreed.

“But she would come to church often and you wouldn’t even know she was here. She would not be spectacular as she can be, she would just sit in the back and worship God. She was here every Sunday when she could be when she wasn’t working, traveling. She was a good member,” he said. “I believe she is enjoying the peace of Heaven. Cicely Tyson will be missed. Our hearts are broken and we are saddened, but she lived a triumphant life. She was God’s gift to us.”

Cicely Tyson’s family circa 1927, from left: her father, William; sister, Emily; mother, Fredericka; brother, Melrose, whom the family called Beau; and Cicely, age 2. | CREDIT: COURTESY CICELY TYSON

Additionally, she spoke on Women’s Day on March 11, 2018 at Abyssinian Baptist Church about growing up in church, where her family attended “Sunday morning till Saturday night.”

“We attended church like Sunday, I played the organ, I taught Sunday school, I had evening service. Monday we had young people’s meeting, Tuesday, old people’s meeting,” she said to another burst of laughter.

“Wednesday, we gathered together to try to introduce young children to the way of God. Thursday, we had club meeting. Friday, I sang and rehearsed in the choir and Saturday, we cleaned the church. I decided at one point that if I ever lived to become a woman I would never enter the portals of church again. And here I am standing in the pulpit of one of the biggest churches in the world,” she said to applause.

To read the entire article, click HERE.

Additionally, below is a link to watch Cicely Tyson’s Barnes & Noble interview with Tyler Perry, who had a mother and son relationship:

Here are a few key moments from the interview:

  • Tyler Perry asked Tyson when she was going to write her memoir for years. And for years, she would reply, “When I have something to say.” See 5:33 of the video.
  • How her breakthrough role as Rebeccca in “Sounder” led to the arresting cover image on her memoir. While doing promotional work for the movie in London, she was photographed by Lord Snowden, who asked if she would allow him to take pictures of her for his collection. The photograph, which she didn’t see at the time, was sent to Arthur Mitchell, a ballet dancer and her close friend, as a gift from Snowden to Mitchell. When Mitchell passed, the photograph which was hung above his headboard for years, was given to Tyson. She was “stunned” as she had not seen it before. When she saw it, she said, “That will be the cover of my book.” See 6:58 of the video.
  • When she was 31 years old and in an acting class, she was sexually assaulted by the teacher Paul Mann! “He grabbed me by my hair and pulled me down, and we fought like cats and dogs. I was finally able to free myself from him, and he was left with a handful of my hair in his hand.” See 11:00 of the video.

And as a 47-year-old woman, the fact that she didn’t get her proverbial “big break” until she was 48 years old was inspiring. See an excerpt of this Washington Post article Cicely Tyson, Actress who Gave Electrifying Portrayals of Resilient Black Women, dies at 96 by Adam Bernstein.

Ms. Tyson was a struggling actress at 48, when her fortunes turned seemingly overnight when she won a leading role in “Sounder.” She played a dirt-poor but proud woman trying to raise her son while her husband (Paul Winfield) is jailed for stealing meat to feed his family. Movie critic Roger Ebert called “Sounder” “simply told and universally moving” and singled out Ms. Tyson’s work for its nuance. “It is a wonder to see the subtleties in her performance,” Ebert wrote. “We have seen her with her family, and we know her strength and intelligence. Then we see her dealing with the white power structure, and her behavior toward it is in a style born of cynicism and necessity. She will say what they want to hear in order to get what she wants to get.” See the rest of the article HERE.

The world will certainly miss Cicely Tyson. But to be absent from this world is to be present with God. 

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My Black History: Destination Wedding is in a Physical Barnes & Noble Bookstore!

Hello World,

So since my debut novel Destination Wedding was released on Dec. 3, 2019, I have worked very hard to get out the word as far and as wide as possible. While having your work on sale at all is a thrill, I get a kick out of seeing physical copies of Destination Wedding in physical bookstores rather than just being on sale online. Here in metro Atlanta, Destination Wedding has been thankfully stocked at two independent bookstores Nubian Bookstore and Medu Bookstore. But as of now, Barnes & Noble Southlake now has my book on its shelves as well. See a few pictures above! And look at the company Destination Wedding is keeping! I love this phrase now: You are the company you keep.

So if you’re in metro Atlanta, please stop by Barnes & Noble Southlake and pick up a copy. Or if you prefer to support independent bookstores, please stop by Nubian Bookstore or Medu Bookstore. Now, Destination Wedding may on the shelves of other bookstores throughout the country, but these are the bookstores that I have personally visited.

If you don’t live in metro Atlanta and would like to support me, please request my book at your local Barnes & Noble (or online if there aren’t any) and or your favorite nearby independent bookstore. When these bookstores receive requests, they are more likely to stock requested books in the store rather than just have them on sale online.

Thank you in advance for your support.

Any thoughts?

It’s First Lady Friday Featuring…Darline McElroy, First Lady of Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church in Forney, Texas!

Hello World,

During Women’s History Month 2019, I’ve launched a new interview series featuring First Ladies! In thinking about my mother who was the First Lady of Central Christian Church in Atlanta, Georgia for 38 years before my father retired in 2017 and after reading Kimberla Lawson Roby’s final Rev. Curtis Black book “Better Late Than Never” which explored Charlotte’s desire to not be a typical First Lady, it dawned on me that I should feature First Ladies, which are revered positions particularly in the black church. Everyone is always talking about what the pastor of this church and that church is doing, but First Ladies are equally as important as the pastors to whom they are married! So periodically, on a Friday of course, I am featuring a First Lady. So if you know of a First Lady who should be featured, please e-mail me at because I’m looking for notable First Ladies to feature!

So with that being said, let me present to some and introduce to others the First Lady of Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church Darline McElroy!

Below is her biography followed by my interview with her. Read, enjoy and share!

Darline Amos-McElroy grew up in Leland, Mississippi. After graduating from the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, Arkansas, she settled in Dallas, Texas. Darline served in education where the storyline for I Ate the Cake: A Journey for Justice began. As a school counselor, Darline followed the responsibilities. As a servant of Jesus Christ, she followed the purpose of His calling. Darline resides with her husband, Pastor Robert B. McElroy and her four children in the suburbs of Dallas, Texas. I Ate the Cake: A Journey for Justice is Darline’s debut book.

1.How do you feel about the term “First Lady?”

When my husband, Pastor Robert B. McElroy, and I accepted the call to Mt. Zion, we agreed to use the term Pastor’s wife. I equated “First Lady” as a position to be highly regarded as someone worthy of different treatment than others. However, my preference is to be one with people of God, so most often, I am referred to as Minister Darline, the Pastor’s wife, or simply my name. I have learned that the term is also one of endearment; therefore, I am not offended by the term as it is a tradition for many. In truth, the Pastor’s wife is set apart, so the choice of terminology doesn’t override expectations and responsibilities.

2. What is the “job description” of a First Lady?  

I chuckled when I heard this question, and one word came to my mind, all-encompassing. The First Lady is a wife first. With her love for her husband and wanting the best for him, she will do what supports him, whether cleaning the restrooms to leading praise and worship songs. The job description is different in each church depending on the available people and resources. The Pastor’s wife will also have a desire, like many Christians, to use her God-given gifts and talents. The description will evolve as the Pastor’s wife, or First Lady learns who she is in Christ. The most important is to support the Pastor’s vision and maintain balance within herself and for her family.

3. What is the best part and what is the worst part about being a First Lady? 

The best part is to assist my husband in creating a welcoming church culture for God’s people. My nature is to care, encourage, and protect, which many members need when coming in from a world that can be cruel. My training as a counselor assists me in the role of First Lady. My desire for each child and adult is for each person to reach their God-designed plans. God has placed me in a position to help others when needed. The worst part is learning balance. Mt. Zion is our first church where we have served as leaders. I can be a very driven person, so I tend to go “all in,” which can lead to energy and emotional depletion especially having my own family and career. However, I have very supportive members who often encourage both my husband and myself to slow down. I think I have reached a point of understanding.

4. What are some misconceptions that people have about being a First Lady? 

The Pastor and his wife as human and have personal struggles. We are not above life as many believe. When we experience problems, it is exceptionally delicate, and often, we have no one to call on safely to release emotionally. Being a “First Lady” can be daunting if you regard yourself as above others. Self-perception is crucial. If I am one with the people, then I am just like others needing Christ to forgive my sins, give strength, and fulfill my life’s purposes. I realize that people have misconceptions; however, many have misconceptions about the uniqueness of being a Christian. For this reason, I remind myself often that I walk in the freedom of Christ, and my walk, actions, etc will help those misconceptions to change eventually.

5. How has your church transitioned during the COVID-19 pandemic and how has the transition affected your church? 

With the assistance of the church ministers, the church has transitioned well. My husband became ill during the early onset of the pandemic, and the ministers helped to transition the church. Initially, we used the phone lines that we use weekly for prayer. We are now using Zoom for Wednesday night Bible study and Sunday morning church service. Each week more members are getting involved. Our women and men groups also meet by Zoom once a month. The Pastor and the board members are working on a building project. With God’s favor, the church is doing well.

6. You worked in the field of education for many years but recently wrote the book I Ate the Cake: A Journey for Justice. Why did you decide to write a book and how did you come up with this interesting title?

Yes, I am a former school counselor and now a licensed professional counselor with an agency, having started Ellipsis Counseling Services. I decided to write the book for three reasons. First, I wrote, “at God’s word.” We see in the gospel of Luke 5:5 that Simon Peter was unsuccessful in his career. Jesus sends him back and tells him to drop the net. The summer I sought help from the district leaders, God told me to keep notes and records. I shared with one of my sisters on a road trip that God was leading me to write a book about the school district’s experiences. Writing the book was my response to God saying, “drop the net.” If placed in God’s hands, every talent or gift we have will capture people’s hearts and lead them to a place of encouragement, peace, or direction.

I also wrote because of Isaiah 30:8, “Go now, write it on a tablet for them, inscribe it on a scroll, that for the days to come it may be an everlasting witness.” God encouraged and instructed Isaiah to write so that the children of God would realize that the writing would serve as a witness to their rebellion once God decided to act. In other words, it could not be said, “we didn’t know or didn’t understand.” As Christian, we are to serve God’s purposes in every life area, including our careers.

Lastly, I wrote the book because it has always been my desire to publish. I Ate the Cake: A Journey for Justice gave me excellent writing material. It is a testimony I never anticipated, and writing the memoir helped me release emotions and understand why God allowed these troubles to be on my journey. As for the title, the story tells the reason. At some point in life, we are all forced or tricked into taking a bite of things intended for harm, but God will turn it around.

7. What do you hope readers will learn from your book? 

My hope is readers will understand the importance of standing up for righteousness and allowing God to work through us daily. My prayer is that the memoir teaches we will have troubles in life, and not all of the problems are self-inflicted. Many issues come as an opportunity to do God’s work and honor His command to “be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth and subdue it” ( Genesis 1:28 NIV). We use God’s strength to accomplish “Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.” (Matthew 6:10 NIV). Furthermore, I want readers to see that the Pastor’s wife or First Lady struggles to honor God just like others. I shared authentic lessons I had to learn as a follower of Christ. At the end of the day, we all walk the same road, trying to please God.

Any thoughts?

Again, if you know of a First Lady who should be featured, please e-mail me at because I’m looking for notable First Ladies to feature! And if you would like to have conversations about faith, relationship, pop culture and more, please click on this link to subscribe to my blog 🙂!