and i love you for that, ruby, my dear . . .

| June 16, 2014
Ruby Dee with husband and fellow actor/activist Ossie Davis.

Ruby Dee with husband and fellow actor/activist Ossie Davis.

© 2014, omowale-ketu oladuwa

“i don’t know who i would be if i weren’t this child from harlem, this woman from harlem. it’s in me so deep.”

—ruby dee, 1924-2014


mother-sister, from striver’s row to st. lucy’s eyes,

you lit the stage and caressed the width

and breadth of our black lives.


if somebody could think of me

and be encouraged, you said:

mother-sister, ms. ruby, my dear homegirl, you

encouraged me. your passion lit my lamp

and gave me hope

at the bottom


of my climb to manhood, from the theatre’s womb.


fordham grad, lincoln center schooled, production manager

at the historic freedom theatre, across the hudson river in newburgh,

you and ossie took us into your modest home in new rochelle

and coached the freedom crew in how to pursue

a life on the boards with black art, despite

the politicians who would cut funds,

close the doors to the people’s

house, and leave freedom



over cool ice tea steeped in the melody

of your and ossie’s collective voice, you bid us

don’t shrink in the face of opposition,

stand your ground


battle for the tax dollars that kept the theatre’s lites on

and the neighborhood people culturally fed. and

i loved you for that encouragement, and

your willingness to stand strong

behind our dream,

never on most people’s map

and yet,

you two took



and treasure and gave respect. and i

love you for that. you, who said,

the greatest gift is not being afraid to question.


and well i learned to question.

actor, poet, playwright, journalist,

activist mother

dear ruby, mother-sister, mothering

force to be reckoned with

friend to robeson, malcolm, martin

and the black arts movement that spurred our

people beyond fear to active resistance.

and i love you for that.


you played many roles with a fired

passion and the deep joy of living

and in each role you gave of yourself

your deep woman wisdom

your unflinching love;

ruth yunger, boesman’s lena,

mother-sister, mama lucas

the black woman whose poeting

called all her sisters to rise and be black



and for demonstrating love in bold

partnership with ossie thru years

off and on stage and all

/ways intime.


your courage and encouragement

live on with us, go before us, grow inside of us

birthing new selves to freedom’s struggle

for human betterment.


and i love you for that.

and i love you for that.



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