A sea of mourning engulfed America on April 4, 1968 the day King was assassinated. Negroes were drowning in despair after his senseless murder in Memphis.
The day after King was killed, beloved actor Ossie Davis, spoke at a memorial gathering for MLK in New York City’s Central Park.
Davis and his wife, Ruby Dee, not only marched alongside King; they were among his closest friends.
“Martin King left us not only the example of his life and of his thoughts and his philosophies and his teachings, but this is more important to the young people in our country, to the black people in our country, he left us the example of his death. He knew it was coming, and he didn’t run, he didn’t change, he didn’t back down. He went forward and he met it like a black man always meets it,” the star of stage, screen and television told the crowd on April 5, 1968.
On Sunday, January 14, The Black Academy of Arts and Letters (TBAAL-Dallas) will honor Davis and Dee at their 35th Annual Black Music and the Civil Rights Movement Concert: A Tribute to Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
The three children of the late activist actors are over the moon about the tribute for personal and professional reasons. Their daughter, Dr. Hasna Muhammad, said that Curtis King, founder and president of the Black Academy of the Arts and Letters, has been involved in her parent’s lives for a while.
“When Curtis kind of reinvigorated the Black Academy of the Arts and Letters mom and dad were great supporters of him and the academy. They did some performances there and Curtis also worked with mom in an excerpt of her one woman show at the Apollo. So, we have a personal and professional relationship.” The tribute, Muhammad says should not be missed. “Dr. King was a significant man, certainly for African Americans but also for people around the world. But, I also hope people will enjoy the concert because I know there’s going to be a 200 voice choir and other performers.”
Listen to Tené Croom’s exclusive interview with Dr. Hasna Muhammad, Nora Davis Day and Guy Davis:
Her brother, Guy Davis, recalls how their parents supported the core of Kings non-violent philosophy.
“Mom and dad were marchers spiritually especially with Rev. Martin Luther King – believing that change can be made through non-violence. Remember Martin King as well as a man of open mindedness toward race, also recognized something that (actor) Paul Robeson recognized that my dad spoke about. That was the new face of racism is economic and anything that would have to do with uplifting Black folks, teaching Black folks; teaching them to help themselves in the area of culture and entertainment was something that mom and dad wanted to be involved in.”
Nora Davis Day, their oldest daughter, explains how the Kennedy Center Honors recipients were involved in human rights.
“In the broader sense as well as civil rights, they were very much concerned with human rights. There were many people who were not Black who made sacrifices and who contributed so much to both movements. It was about inspiring, entertaining, enlightening all at the same time.”
Guy, a Grammy nominated blues guitarist and banjo player, says when growing up he remembers lots of love in the home.
“I remember so much joy. I remember so much playfulness. I remember us having to get our homework done just like any other group of kids. Yes, it was a little prickly sometimes knowing that everybody seemed to know them and I felt that there were constraints on my behavior. My dad used to quote that (Buffalo Springfield) song ‘…stop, children, what’s that sound? Everybody look what’s going down.’ That’s the kind of parents they were. They were interactive with us.”
“Cotton Comes to Harlem” is among the films Ossie Davis is credited with directing. The “Do the Right Thing” star was 87 when he passed away in 2005. Davis had been married to Ruby Dee since 1948. Dee starred in numerous movies, including the award winning “A Raisin in the Sun” and “American Gangster.” She passed away in 2014 at the age of 91.
Both had been named to the NAACP Image Awards Hall of Fame.
Listen to Tené Croom’s exclusive interview with Dr. Hasna Muhammad, Nora Davis Day and Guy Davis, above.
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