Legendary entertainer Ruby Dee was honored at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in New York. The ageless and graceful matriarch was surrounded by high-profile celebrities and esteemed community leaders including Angela Bassett, Courtney Vance, Susan L. Taylor, Billye Aaron and many others.
The birthday fête provided an opportunity for guests to take part in the premiere Life’s Essentials with Ruby Dee – a documentary about the lives of she and her late husband Ossie Davis, their eternal love and grandson’s quest for the secrets to love, art, and activism. Dedicated by her grandson Muta’Ali Muhammad, the film is the first in a series of Life’s Essentials screenings. Only an excerpt, the first 30 minutes were screened.
In a statement to press, Ambassador Andrew Young, honorary chair of the birthday celebration, touched on the significance of the documentary. “I must commend Muta’Ali. As I watched the trailer this summer, I knew I was watching something special which bonded heritage and history into a moment in time.” Ambassador Young was joined by actors Latonya Jackson, Samuel L. Jackson, Angela Bassett and Courtney Vance as honorary chairs.
Affectionately called “GramRuby,” the 90-year-old poet and thespian tells press, “My heart is with the Life’s Essentials project. I feel overwhelmed and delighted by the thought of a film devoted to the love of Ossie and me; our work in the arts and our work in the struggle. Life’s Essentials is an example of how one generation gives to the other, reaches back and pulls up. It is a celebration of families everywhere.”
A living legend, Ruby Dee has played many roles and earned numerous awards for her stellar work on stage and screen. Married 57 years, she and the late Ossie Davis helped pave the way for generations of young black actors, filmmakers, and activists. For more than half a century, they shared their gifts of acting, activism, plays and film direction, and the distinction of being our distinguished “First Couple.” Their massive body of work has been lauded with a National Medal of Arts, Kennedy Center Honors, a Grammy Award, an Emmy Award, the Marian Anderson Award, and an Academy Award nomination.