RIP Ruby Dee

13 Jun

Ruby DeeYesterday saw the passing of another great female icon, actress and activist, Ruby Dee.  Dee was 91 years old.

It made me ponder how I think we all form in our minds, and our hearts, our own image of how we “know” a celebrity.  At least I know I do.  It’s how I just knew as a girl that Michael Jackson was shy, but kind, and that he and I would make good friends.  It’s how I know, say, that actor John Cusack must be a cool guy because he stays out of the Hollywood celebrity drama eye.  It’s how I know that Frida Kahlo would think we were kindred spirits because when I do paint, I like to create very detailed, personal works in what might be considered a naive style.   It’s how Prince would know I was a funky white girl, and would want to go out dancing with me.

The truth is, I don’t really know what these people are like, but still I imagine I do.  It’s my way in to feeling closer to someone who seems to be on this untouchable pedestal.  It humanizes the star that is out of my reach.

As for Ruby Dee, I do not have extensive knowledge of her talent, tremendous career, or personal life–only a skim coat of knowing her acting career–from her stand out role in A Raisin In The Sun, to her role in Spike Lee’s Do The Right Thing, when she is paired with her beloved husband of over fifty years, Ossie Davis.  I know lightly of her friendship with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and her work as a civil rights activist.

I didn’t really know Ruby Dee, but anytime I heard her name or caught her in a film, or heard her speak on television, the words that came to mind are two found in the quote below attributed to Dee, which I saw posted numerous times on Facebook yesterday.

“The kind of beauty I want most is the hard-to-get kind that comes from within–strength, courage, dignity.”

Strength and dignity are the words that always came to mind for me when thinking of Ruby Dee, and now it is clear to see that yes, it takes courage to put forth and maintain the other two–especially as a woman of color in her time who strove to be the best she could be at her craft, in her love, in doing her part to make the world a better place, in raising her children, and for letting us in to create those images, in our minds, and in our hearts, of who Ruby Dee was to us.

Here is my daily Facebook poem from yesterday, a tribute to Ruby Dee, created from my friends’ Status Updates, as well as several links to articles posted on-line that pay tribute to this great woman.


facebook dailymades (from your status updates)

I was writing
poetic soul tonic
underneath the weather
…and the day is
not my own…
sadly, we are
losing our elders
another icon gone
rip-loved your
raisin in the sun
she was the
consummate artist
she walked with
heavy ancestral vibrations
and I wish her
safe passage
more anon…
back to editing
rest in peace, ruby dee

FB Status Update contributors:  Denitra Letrice, Debby Irving, Rochelle Morgan Taylor, Carol Hubbard, Tracy Baptiste, Carmen Head, Denise Byrd, National Civil Rights Museum, Donald King, Ryan Stevenson, For Harriet

Links to articles paying tribute to Ruby Dee:

Thinking of Ruby Dee by Hilton Als for The New Yorker

How To Spend 9 Years Without The Love Of Your Life ( A Tribute to Ruby Dee),

by Stacia L. Brown


Ruby Dee, Actress and Activist Has Died, by Monee Fields-White, for The Root





Thinking Of Ruby Dee, posted by Hilton Als, June 12, 2014,

How To Spend 9 Years Without The Love Of Your Life ( A Tribute to Ruby Dee), 

by Stacia L. Brown, June 12, 2014,

Ruby Dee, Actress and Activist Has Died, by Monee Fields-White, June 12, 2014,

4 Responses to “RIP Ruby Dee”

  1. karen kidd June 14, 2014 at 1:17 am #

    Great piece, Wendy. The poem was a great tribute, as well. Keep up the good work, here, on your blog. Xoxoxo…

    • Wendy Jane June 14, 2014 at 7:44 am #

      Thank you, Karen! Thanks so much for always stopping by for a read. xoxo

  2. Sherry Gordon June 14, 2014 at 11:24 am #

    Dear Wendy Jane,
    Hi, there, Wendy Jane! What a marvelously great blog post article this is of yours as well as a very touching and fabulous tribute and memorial you have so sensitively written for our Ruby Dee! Ruby Dee was for all of us as our very bright and shining light. What an amazing, powerful, and great woman she was in her fantastically empowering life. Ruby Dee will always be remembered and highly regarded. She is there for all of us in our shared humanity and common beloved community not only for black women and other black people, but also for you Wendy Jane and other precious white women, and ultimately for all humankind. I think these thoughts in the depths of my heart as a black woman and lesbian who I am that Ruby Dee is also there for you and other fabulous and fantastic white women!

    I know what you mean when you say that you can sense and imagine what celebrities and other famous people are like in their spirits and souls even though you don’t know them. I, too, am like you and they do seem to be humanized to me as well even though society puts them on an unreachable pedestal.

    I, too, think you and Michael Jackson would have been great friends! You were able to intuit that he had a very sensitive nature. Prince would love to dance with you and to hang out with you, Wendy Jane, because you are so sharp and cool!

    Your poem is fabulous! What a great, caring, and loving tribute and memorial to our Ruby Dee! Your spectacular poem is also so, so very touching and moving, and so, so very sensitively crafted and composed! I thank-you so, so very much for this!

    I love all of your writings so, so very much, a whole bunch, my white sisterfriend who your are, Wendy Jane! I am going to also continue to read through and reply to your very fine and excellent archives!

    You please have a very fun, relaxing, nice, special, and a very blessed Saturday, my white sister and friend, Wendy Jane!

    Very Warmly and Sincerely Always,
    Sherry Gordon

    • Wendy Jane June 22, 2014 at 8:45 am #

      Sherry–you’re the best–I’ll have to just dream now about me and MJ being friends, but that Prince thing still could happen, right?:)

      Thanks for sharing your feelings about the great, Ruby Dee. I hope you enjoy the rest of the weekend, my sister friend!

      Wendy Jane

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