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Ruby Dee Never Forgot Her Northeast Ohio Roots

Friday, June 13, 2014 at 1:25 PM

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Friends and colleagues across the country are remembering Northeast Ohio native Ruby Dee, who died this week at the age of 91. Although her family moved to New York, soon after she was born, ideastream's David C. Barnett reports that the respected actor never forgot her roots.

Photo Gallery

Detail from the Ruby Dee mural on the Karamu building Karamu's Ruby Dee mural in perspective Movie poster for 1968 film, 'Uptight', shot in Cleveland in 1968

Ruby Dee is a looming presence on the east side of Cleveland.  A mural bearing her likeness dominates the west wall of the city’s Karamu theater, the historic multi-racial performance space that she loved and supported over a long and distinguished career on stage and television, and in film.  In 1968, she returned to her hometown to appear in a film that she co-wrote, called “Uptight” - a meditation on race, family and loyalty.

“You don’t like me being on welfare; that lousy check don’t buy nothing!  I have to do a whole lot of other things I don’t like.”

She would return to Cleveland many times after that, to visit family, and to support regional theater. During a 2006 visit to appear in a co-production foe the Cleveland and Karamu, she spoke with 90.3’s Dee Perry about the importance of the city’s theatrical heritage:

“Karamu and Cleveland Playhouse are both respected nationwide, and in these days of such stress on organizations like Karamu, it’s good to know that there is this effort to come together - each theater with something to offer to the other. It’s so what you call, ‘American.’”

Ruby Dee and her husband, the late Ossie Davis, were committed to reminding America of it’s promise. Karamu Artistic Director Terrence Spivey is inspired by that giant face of Ruby Dee watching over the city where she was born:

“She was definitely a giant. I’m hoping the younger generation, including myself, will just continue to follow her footsteps, what she was heading to. Because, she was still about work. She was still about not being satisfied about what she was doing.”

But, she left a lot of satisfied audiences in he giant wake.

Additional Audio

Listen to a 2006 Dee Perry interview with Ruby Dee.

Tags

Arts and Culture, Motion Pictures (Film, Video), Theatre, Economy, Community/Human Interest, Race

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