Ossie Davis died last week at the age of 87. While far more eloquent tributes and eulogies will be written, I want to offer my remembrance of a mighty good man.
Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee, his wife-partner-soul mate for nearly 60 years, narrated the documentary about the 2000 election debacle that I wrote and produced, Counting on Democracy. The voiceovers were recorded in a cramped studio in New York City. Never once did Mr. Davis, who was recovering from a bout with the flu, complain. Indeed, you can hear the lingering effects in his first few voiceovers.
I cannot begin to describe the joy and disbelief that I felt that day. Here was Ossie Davis—Ossie Davis who marched with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and eulogized Malcolm X—reading words about the struggle written by a poor girl from Bed-Stuy. His dignity and professionalism were exceeded only by his determination to “report for duty.”
I last saw Mr. Davis in September at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s national town hall meeting.
A few months earlier, he was a keynote speaker at the CBC’s summit on the State of the African American Male. Mr. Davis told the SRO room of black men from across the country to take control of their destiny:
My prayer is God allows me to stay in the struggle until the day I die…We are the “be there” people.We’ll be there when they come.We’ll be there when they’re gone. We are still a patient people even when there seems to be no light, and all the doors are closed, and no way out to the living eye.We wait with preparation because we know God didn’t bring us this far to leave us.Our experience has given us an edge.We’ve had experiences like none other.And still we rise, and we overcome. We will go now blazing in defense of what we have. It’s not enough to just make a living.You have to make a life.
And what a life he made.Ossie Davis was an unwavering drum major for justice and human rights.; But above all he was a man.
May he rest in peace.