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Cicely Tyson performs Langston Hughes at Ebony gala

Associated Press logo Associated Press 12/2/2016 By SANDY COHEN, AP Entertainment Writer
Honoree Cicely Tyson addresses the audience at the 2016 EBONY Power 100 Gala at the Beverly Hilton on Thursday, Dec. 1, 2016, in Beverly Hills, Calif. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP) © The Associated Press Honoree Cicely Tyson addresses the audience at the 2016 EBONY Power 100 Gala at the Beverly Hilton on Thursday, Dec. 1, 2016, in Beverly Hills, Calif. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. (AP) — Cicely Tyson performed a Langston Hughes poem as she accepted a lifetime achievement award from Ebony magazine.

Honorees Philip Bailey, left, Ralph Johnson, center, and Verdine White of the band Earth Wind & Fire accept their awards at the 2016 EBONY Power 100 Gala at the Beverly Hilton on Thursday, Dec. 1, 2016, in Beverly Hills, Calif. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP) © The Associated Press Honorees Philip Bailey, left, Ralph Johnson, center, and Verdine White of the band Earth Wind & Fire accept their awards at the 2016 EBONY Power 100 Gala at the Beverly Hilton on Thursday, Dec. 1, 2016, in Beverly Hills, Calif. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

Adding years and grit to her voice, Tyson recited "Mother to Son" from memory, telling the audience at the magazine's annual Power 100 gala Thursday that "Life for me ain't been no crystal stair." When she got to the line about "don't you turn back," people cheered.

Musician Nile Rodgers reacts to photographers at the 2016 EBONY Power 100 Gala at the Beverly Hilton on Thursday, Dec. 1, 2016, in Beverly Hills, Calif. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP) © The Associated Press Musician Nile Rodgers reacts to photographers at the 2016 EBONY Power 100 Gala at the Beverly Hilton on Thursday, Dec. 1, 2016, in Beverly Hills, Calif. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

It was a moving moment in a jubilant evening celebrating the achievements of black leaders in business, science, education and entertainment. Cedric the Entertainer hosted the private ceremony at the Beverly Hilton Hotel.

Actress Regina King poses at the 2016 EBONY Power 100 Gala at the Beverly Hilton on Thursday, Dec. 1, 2016, in Beverly Hills, Calif. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP) © The Associated Press Actress Regina King poses at the 2016 EBONY Power 100 Gala at the Beverly Hilton on Thursday, Dec. 1, 2016, in Beverly Hills, Calif. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

Tyson said that while she's grateful for the lifetime achievement honors and "indebted" to late Ebony founder John Johnson, it may be too soon for her to receive such recognition.

Actress Issa Rae poses at the 2016 EBONY Power 100 Gala at the Beverly Hilton on Thursday, Dec. 1, 2016, in Beverly Hills, Calif. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP) © The Associated Press Actress Issa Rae poses at the 2016 EBONY Power 100 Gala at the Beverly Hilton on Thursday, Dec. 1, 2016, in Beverly Hills, Calif. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

"How do these people know that I've already lived my life?" quipped the 91-year-old actress, whose recent credits include "How to Get Away With Murder" and "House of Cards."

Singer Kelly Rowland poses at the 2016 EBONY Power 100 Gala at the Beverly Hilton on Thursday, Dec. 1, 2016, in Beverly Hills, Calif. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP) © The Associated Press Singer Kelly Rowland poses at the 2016 EBONY Power 100 Gala at the Beverly Hilton on Thursday, Dec. 1, 2016, in Beverly Hills, Calif. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

Actress Regina King, who presented Tyson's award, introduced her as "a national treasure."

Actress Issa Rae poses at the 2016 EBONY Power 100 Gala at the Beverly Hilton on Thursday, Dec. 1, 2016, in Beverly Hills, Calif. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP) © The Associated Press Actress Issa Rae poses at the 2016 EBONY Power 100 Gala at the Beverly Hilton on Thursday, Dec. 1, 2016, in Beverly Hills, Calif. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

The surviving members of Earth, Wind & Fire also received lifetime achievement honors. Philip Bailey, Verdine White and Ralph Johnson dedicated the award to band founder Maurice White, who died earlier this year.

Host Cedric the Entertainer arrives at the 2016 EBONY Power 100 Gala at the Beverly Hilton on Thursday, Dec. 1, 2016, in Beverly Hills, Calif. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP) © The Associated Press Host Cedric the Entertainer arrives at the 2016 EBONY Power 100 Gala at the Beverly Hilton on Thursday, Dec. 1, 2016, in Beverly Hills, Calif. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

Actor Craig Robinson presented a special award to musician and composer Nile Rodgers, who accepted by performing a hit-packed set of songs from his catalog.

2016 U.S. Olympic gymnast Simone Biles poses at the 2016 EBONY Power 100 Gala at the Beverly Hilton on Thursday, Dec. 1, 2016, in Beverly Hills, Calif. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP) © The Associated Press 2016 U.S. Olympic gymnast Simone Biles poses at the 2016 EBONY Power 100 Gala at the Beverly Hilton on Thursday, Dec. 1, 2016, in Beverly Hills, Calif. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

"We play music to make you dance, so I want you to get up," Rodgers said.

Host Cedric the Entertainer addresses the audience at the 2016 EBONY Power 100 Gala at the Beverly Hilton on Thursday, Dec. 1, 2016, in Beverly Hills, Calif. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP) © The Associated Press Host Cedric the Entertainer addresses the audience at the 2016 EBONY Power 100 Gala at the Beverly Hilton on Thursday, Dec. 1, 2016, in Beverly Hills, Calif. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

Backed by an eight-piece band, he brought the crowd to its feet with the Daft Punk/Pharrell smash "Get Lucky," the Diana Ross disco jam "I'm Coming Out," David Bowie's "Let's Dance" and the Chic hits "Freak Out" and "Good Times."

Honoree Cicely Tyson, left, accepts her award from presenter Regina King at the 2016 EBONY Power 100 Gala at the Beverly Hilton on Thursday, Dec. 1, 2016, in Beverly Hills, Calif. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP) © The Associated Press Honoree Cicely Tyson, left, accepts her award from presenter Regina King at the 2016 EBONY Power 100 Gala at the Beverly Hilton on Thursday, Dec. 1, 2016, in Beverly Hills, Calif. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

Ebony's list of Power 100 honorees — which includes Beyonce, LeBron James, Simone Biles and the Obamas — appears in the December-January issue.

Honoree Cicely Tyson, left, accepts her award from actress Regina King at the 2016 EBONY Power 100 Gala at the Beverly Hilton on Thursday, Dec. 1, 2016, in Beverly Hills, Calif. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP) © The Associated Press Honoree Cicely Tyson, left, accepts her award from actress Regina King at the 2016 EBONY Power 100 Gala at the Beverly Hilton on Thursday, Dec. 1, 2016, in Beverly Hills, Calif. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

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Follow AP Entertainment Writer Sandy Cohen at www.twitter.com/APSandy .

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