Ruby Dee: actress, poet, playwright, screenwriter, journalist and activist. October 27, 1922 – June 11, 2014
I had the honor of meeting Ruby Dee in 2005, when I hosted the Civil Rights Museum’s Freedom Awards. Paul Ruseseabagina, Oprah and Ruby Dee were the honorees.
I want to weep at the thought of that day. I remember wanting to fall to the ground, to kick and scream. I also wanted to shine and sing and fly. Without warning, an understanding emerged in me. I remembered a fuller picture of who I am that I didn’t know I had forgotten. And I am a better person for it. My life changed that day in Memphis.
I wrote a piece about my experience. Below is an excerpt that describes my moments with Ruby Dee.
I watched Ruby Dee in all her magic, grace and strength, take the stage in front of 10,ooo people with her 3 ring binder. She spilled with the gentle, cool vulnerability of a stream, the taught pull of salt water taffy, the fullness, bounce and joy of a beach ball, the bare calloused feet of our cotton picking former selves, the shrill of a fire hose, the strength of standing up no matter what, the rhythm of fore fathers and the full heart of a teenager in love for the first time. She flew and danced and slapped our souls with her voice, waking up yesterday, reminding, teaching, stirring, pulling. We mustn’t forget. The journey is not done. Wake up, keep going, stand tall.
Breathing in I know I’m breathing in.
Breathing out I know I’m breathing out.
I tried to continue. To move right back into the program but the fullness in the room was buoyant. Yesterday had entered; our hearts were lit up and flung open, our feet rooted and our souls awake and attentive. I took a moment and bowed my head for everyone in the room. I bowed my head and acknowledged the freedom and channel that is Ruby Dee. I bowed my head in humbled awe of what she had ushered in.
-Tracee Ellis Ross