Another beautiful Legend has made her transition, the elegant Ms. Ruby Dee. I am so heartened by the many posts about her life and talent. She was truly one of the giants of stage and screen. If I live to be 91, I certainly hope that I age as gracefully as she did.
My fondest memory of this Grand Dame was her performance in one of my favorite plays – A Raisin In The Sun, which premiered in 1961. Ms. Dee starred as Ruth Younger, a steadying presence for her husband Walter Lee Younger, portrayed by Sidney Poitier; her mother-in-law Lena Younger, portrayed by Claudia McNeil and her sister-in-law Beneatha Younger, portrayed by Diana Sands.
A Raisin In The Sun addressed the ever-present civil rights issues of that time – racial discrimination in housing and impediments to economic advancement due to limited employment opportunities. Despite these challenges, there were three aspects of this story that I am most fond of: the family’s decision to move into their new home in the Lakewood section of Chicago despite attempts to dissuade them, Beneatha’s dream of becoming a doctor, which was rarely seen on film during that time in our history and the prominent status given to each of Beneatha’s male suitors.
Ms. Dee’s appearance in this play (and movie) did not come as a surprise to her family, friends and colleagues. Like her husband, Ossie Davis, she took an active role in the fight for civil rights and used her status to promote the cause of African-Americans in the entertainment industry. In 1963 this dynamic couple served as Masters of Ceremonies for the historic March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. When the world said goodbye to Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., she and her husband were there. Similarly, when the world bid farewell to Malcolm X, they were also present. These are just a few examples of their many contributions to the cause of racial and social justice.
Brooklyn Legends joins the world in saluting the life and legacy of the great Ms. Ruby Dee. She was truly a woman of style and substance. For me, she had a quintessential elegance that I will always remember.
I would like to close this post with a quote from her daughter: Nora Davis Day:
“We gave her our permission to set sail.
She opened her eyes, closed her eyes and away she went.”