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VOL 3. NO. 23 Monday, October 25 - Sunday, November 6, 2004
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A Conversation With Ossie and Ruby
By Yvonne MEDLEY

Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis,Courtesy Photo

Editor's Note: The husband and wife team of Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis is a shining example of what TaRessa and Calvin Stovall called "A Love Supreme." In their Warner Books release, A Love Supreme: Real-Life Stories of Black Love, the Stovall's showed us varying images of Black people involved in "sweet, satisfying, challenging and enduring committed love … defy(ing) the myths and stereotypes that Black men and women are at war with each other and unable to connect in positive, meaningful ways".

For over five decades Dee and Davis have shared a life full of challenges, sweetness, passion, creativity and politics. They have done so very publicly and gracefully. With the release of the book With Ossie & Ruby: In This Life Together (William Morrow & Company), Metro Connection had an opportunity to speak with the legendary pair about their long career and their own love story. Excerpts of that conversation is outlined below. More recently we spoke with Dee about her one-woman show My One Good Nerve: A Visit With Ruby Dee, scheduled to run from June 27 - July 1 at the Publick Playhouse in Cheverly, Md. We will bring you that conversation in the June 25 ezine.

Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis have mastered just about every entertainment medium.. They are stars of the screen (big and small), the stage, literary ventures and even radio. When reminded of these accomplishments Davis chuckled before humbly conceding the undeniable truth.

"We've accomplished some things of which we're very proud," he said in his deep and majestic voice. "Let us say that we have tried to do our best. And in the process, we've learned a thing or two."

Indeed after 53 years in the industry, this dynamic duo has left an indelible mark on our popular culture, but they were less interested in speaking about their impressive resume and instead wanted to steer our discussion to their live and love.

"You know, one of the things that we're most proud of is that thing [called] relationship," said the 81 year old Davis. "Ruby and I have been knocking around together for 51 years." And their proudest production is their three children, Nora, Guy, and Hasna, and seven grandchildren.

"What we like to say to our own young people and anybody else is that `relationship' is not given. It's something that you achieve. [And] you work at it. You build on it," said Davis.

Couples must remember that they are two separate individuals who may see things quite differently, injected Dee, in her smooth sultry voice. "We have to respect those differences in each other," she said.

Throughout our conversation the couple volleyed marriage tips back and forth with experiential familiarity. After a half century together, they had lived through it all and they have done it under public scrutiny with a regal dignity. "You take it, you twist it, you churn it, you improve it, and you make it work for you. You don't just get married and live happily ever after," insisted Davis.

"Marriage is something that is everyday, the wedding happens once," Dee said agreeing. And during the course of a relationship, "you're agreeing or disagreeing on one point or another. But," she said, letting a mischievous chuckle escape, "the more agreement you have, the better. Then you can call the marriage a good one."

Davis said that the secret to his success at being a good husband, rests in his ability to listen to his wife. And if what his wife has to say doesn't exactly jive with his own point-of-view, he has learned to simply give his ego ample time to pout and get mad. And then he allows his wife's wisdom to peacefully coincide with his own. This formula of give-and-take, Davis admitted with laughter, does take a few years to perfect.

Dee, now enjoying her 70s (and that's all the age she'll divulge), said she had to learn to speak up for herself because the load of being a young wife, mother, and budding actress became hard to bear. "When I got married my responsibilities increased and his decreased. Suddenly, it was my role to do the cooking, cleaning, laundry, and with the addition of the first child, the rearing," she said. "I began to feel that there was something very unfair that he had time to sit down and read the paper and I didn't."

So, "after some tantrums and feeling put upon, and saying that marriage isn't fair, we began to talk," Dee said. She was also quick to add that she was blessed to have a husband willing to listen and do what he had to do to change the situation. "Being a sensitive man, he tuned in and revved up," she said laughing.

Davis explained that they have been able to make the necessary adjusts because they take their relationship one day at a time. "What we've tried to say is, 'look, this it Tuesday morning and let's see if we can stay married through the night,'" Davis recounted with easy laughter. "You need to be patient with yourself and with your mate, and when necessary you need to say `I didn't do it today, but I betcha I'm gonna do it tomorrow.' That's the way we've done it and it has worked for us and we're thankful to God that that is so."

Davis and Dee agree that their relationship with God has sustained their personal and professional relationship. And this too has grown stronger over t ime.

"Speaking for myself," Davis said, "God sort of started out as a concept wayyyyyy up yonder and then, little by little, it got closer, and closer, and closer. And over the years, the concept of God [has turned into an] intimate friend." Now they make it a habit to pray together. "Everyday, even if we do it on the phone, we pray together. Even if only for two minutes or five minutes, we try to make that a daily part of our routine," said Dee.

And when Davis and Dee are together they etch out deliberate time to sit and talk to one another. They talk about the Lord, "and ask that in all that we do, let it be consistent with His grace and with His goodness," said Davis. And what we do in God's name transcends any, "expression of Ossie and Ruby out there. We are the servants of something greater than ourselves."

My One Good Nerve: A Visit With Ruby Dee runs from Wednesday, June 27 - Sunday, July 1, 2001 at The Publick Playhouse, 5445 Landover Road, Cheverly, Md. Tickets are $25-$22, except for Saturday, June 30th when all tickets are $45 for both the performance and a VIP reception. Call 301-277-1710.

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