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RIP Ruby Dee Davis, 1922-2014

Grace Lee and Ruby Dee hug at 2011 TNAR book signing in New York.  PHOTO COURTESY ANGELA JONES

Grace Lee and Ruby Dee hug at 2011 TNAR book signing in New York. PHOTO COURTESY ANGELA JONES

By Grace Lee Boggs
Special to the Michigan Citizen

Over the years, Ruby Dee has become a part of all our lives, because we have watched and identified with her in so many movies and at so many civil rights demonstrations.   Despite her fame and artistry, she was extraordinarily unpretentious and could have been our sister, daughter, girlfriend.

Ruby loved fresh ideas and was especially fond of Jimmy Boggs. I am not sure how she even knew he was dying, but two days before his transition on July 22, 1993, she sent him a huge tray of gingerbread with the long poem reprinted below (from the Memorial booklet and from page 282-3 of my autobiography, “The Next American Revolution”).

The last time I saw Ruby was when she showed up unexpectedly at our 2011 TNAR book-signing meeting at the Brecht Forum in NYC. She was as pert and chipper as a teenager in a red derby.

Last year, when I was in New York, I tried to see her, but learned she was in the hospital and not receiving visitors.

 

FOR JAMES
Writer, Activist, Worker

Dear James E. Boggs
As I think of you I get a feeling of
Three names — three pronouncements
So I’m inserting an E to rhyme with Lee
As in Grace Lee because as I think of you
My mind turns from two to trinities —
Pyramids, ancient secrets, rituals
Three immovable points of light
Encompassing the all-seeing eye.
When etenities yawn they metamorphize
From circles and become pyramids.
Maybe — despited all our protestations of
NOT NOW — TOO SOON — SO MUCH LEFT
UNDONE ETC. That’s what death is all about
Eternities on burnout, with hangover,
In recess, taking a nap.
Father, Son, Holy Ghost.
Mother, Moving out, Midnite mourning
Morning, noon and night.

Are you shrugging your shoulders
Worker hands outstretched from arms
Elbows pressed to sides, eyes wide
Proclaiming
WE ALL GOT TO DIE — THAT’S A GIVEN —
NOTHIN’ WE CAN DO ABOUT THAT —
LET’S SPEND THE TIME DOING/SAYING
SOMETHING THAT CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE —
THAT MAKES SENSE! IS LOGICAL!
Well, I don’t expect to win a prize for
Stoic control and dignity at mourning time.
Death deserves tantrum, beating back
Shocked indignation, kicks in the groin,
Stones, classified UNACCEPTABLE.
Not to be tolerated. Not to be
Wooed. Not to be CONSPIRED WITH!
Only then can music, dance, movies, plays,
Rap. Be about life. Only then can LIFE be
Cherished and adored and made the
Main ingredient of existence.
I’m through with gallantry in death. No more
Of that. Let the awards come for the living
Gallantry day by day.
Death needs to be backgrounded — needs
Not to be confused with the main event.

You, dear James, you and Grace, represent
The nobleness of life
Stalwart cheerleaders of the
BETTER WAY contingent
Water on the seed bed of exciting and
Necessary choices.

You have certainly opened us — Ossie and me
To horizons of thought and theory that
Underline and
Strengthen so much of what we have done and
Hope to do in our remaining minutes in the
Arts. You have taught us ways of thinking
And looking at Life and its challenges
That without you
May have escaped us.

So even though I cry and want to
Tear out what’s left of the hair as I
Think of you trying to ease out the door
Unnoticed, dazzling and stopping us all
With the enormous body of thought and
Instructions for future directions flying
Towards us,
My heart reaches through the event to hold
And hug you hard, swear and cry, before you
Smiling, with finger to lips,
Quietly close the door.

When you move through the glory tunnel
My heart will track the journey with you
Shouting
LOVE, LOVE, LOVE. WE TRULY LOVE YOU.
Best we so far know how.

If you won’t be too busy
Come see me sometime
If you can.
— Ruby Dee
July 20, 1993

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