With many of us still reeling from the loss of Dr. Maya Angelou, we learned that Ruby Dee passed on June 11 at the age of 91. Dee was a petite powerhouse: an award-winning actress, poet, playwright, screenwriter and journalist, whose outsize talent spanned stage, screen and social activism.
In the early 60s and 70s as I was growing up, she was one of the few Black women I got a chance to see regularly on TV. And each appearance was a treat. Seeing her on screen—with her dear husband Ossie Davis or solo—was like seeing a favorite family member after a long separation; my heart skipped just a little bit inside. I admired her poise and her intensity. The special way she spoke, that breathless cadence—it was so uniquely hers.
As a young magazine editor, I finally had a chance to meet her at an event I attended. Dee was the special guest, and organizers of the luncheon arranged for me to have a private sit-down with her before the program started. To this day, I can't remember what we talked about. I do remember her smile. It felt like an invitation to drink in some secret sister-friend wisdom that only she and I would share. I was completely captivated.
I believe she had that affect on everyone who was blessed enough to watch her perform, or spend time with her. Like Maya Angelou, Ruby Dee was a longtime ESSENCE supporter. It was always an honor to have her grace us with her presence, as she did many times over in our pages through the years. You can find a few of our favorite encounters on our site. Rest in peace, Ms. Ruby.