Posted Feb. 16, 2005
'A Lion has fallen'
The following column was transcribed from a Pacifica radio interview with the death row, political prisoner on Feb. 7
Photo: Chester Higgins, Jr
Ossie Davis, our own Black shining star.
A lion has fallen.
Ossie Davis, the deep-voiced, proud and majestic man who has performed on stage, film, television and community centers, has passed from this life at the age of 87 years, leaving behind him the radiant and talented Ruby Dee, his co-star on life's broad stage, and millions of mourners the world over.
In whatever role he accepted, he projected a rare and matchless dignity. Ossie Davis was a brave man who didn't just play one on TV.
At a time when it was personally, politically and career-wise dangerous, he stepped forth to support the civil-rights struggles of the 1960s and 1970s and wrote his legacy large in Black America's history when he delivered the touching and heartfelt eulogy to the Black nationalist leader, Malcolm X. His words leavened with love and courage were as much a tribute to Malcolm as they were to himself, for they reflected a deep and abiding love for Black people, even though seen as enemies of the state.
Of Malcolm, he would say, he was our own Black shining prince who didn't hesitate to give his life because he loved us so.
Many years ago, perhaps around 1980, I had the pleasure of interviewing Ossie Davis and his lovely wife Ruby. I found a generous, humorous, sweet and deep soul. Ossie talked about what being in the arts meant to him.
From that spark of inspiration and the magic of a marriage to the wondrous Ruby Dee, the arts under both of their singular talents have been rewarded. I asked him about the impact of their politics on their careers and he easily answered that they always found something to do, if it was a play in a Black college or neighborhood community center, for there was no community that closed their doors to their talent and their spirits. He added that he didn't need much.
But for most young people, perhaps the grizzled old guy in Spike Lee's movie, "Do the Right Thing," sparks memories. In the flick, Davis plays Da Mayor, a street figure who pines for the attention of his love interest, played by Ruby Dee. This very role reflects the essence of what Davis and Dee have done for generations now: taken rather ordinary roles and imbued them with grace and dignity, a reflection of how they touched the lives of millions of ordinary people by reflecting the best that is within them.
A country boy from Cogdell, Ga., Ossie Davis inspired millions through decades of performances in various media with the essential elements of dignity and the love for one's people. He was a lion, and though he has passed,
may his brilliant life inspire the lions and giants to come.
From death row,
this is Mumia Abu-Jamal. n
This column may be reprinted and/or distributed by electronic means, but only for non-commercial use, and only with the inclusion of the following copyright information: Text (c) copyright 2005 by Mumia Abu-Jamal.
To download Mp3's of Mumia's commentaries visit
Mumia Abu-Jamal is the author of the following books:
WE WANT FREEDOM: 'A Life in the Black Panther Party',
'Live from Death Row',
'Death Blossoms', and
'All Things Censored'.
Write to Mumia directly at:
Mumia Abu-Jamal AM 8335
175 Progress Drive
Waynesburg, PA 15370