Her conviction and passion captured me. She could illustrate murals through the rasp in her voice and pierce the soul with conviction when she opened her eyes wide, forming round, heavy scopes of wisdom and truth. She showed us how to love a man and how to move a man. Loving her man was as much her joy and mission as her work on the stage and screen. Beautiful as she was, she was able to position herself as never to be objectified; no one had her permission to decide who she was. Only she did that, with the expectation that others would oblige. She fought for civil rights for mankind and for the rights of her people. She did not allow fear to stifle or stop her. She seemed to thrive in it. Her small frame was heavy with determination and power and she knew she had influence. No matter what people said or will say, she was a monument.
I’m talking about Ruby Dee.
Talking to one of my sisters the other day about yet another great ancestor ascending into the clouds and she said, “Sometimes I just feel like we’re losing everybody at once.” I told her I know.
I know and I know.
Our faces are only barely dry from mourning our mother-teacher Maya Angelou. As soon as we lift our head to the sun, our broken heart beckons it back down to weep once more for yet another matriarch gone on. But I dared to peek open my eyes and take a look around, in the quiet mourning, I heard a whisper. Can’t you hear it? The great cloud of witnesses is expanding. One more soul is standing on the sidelines, calling our names, beckoning us forward to take our places in the struggle and fight. Fight for civil rights, fight for our children, lend our voices to the cries for help for the marginalized, ready our hands to take the plow, lace up our shoes for the journey ahead for there is yet work to be done. I can hear their whispers. I hear them saying,
Girl, stop worryin’ about what people think of you. Stop worryin’ about if they’ll like what you have to give. Stop worryin’ about if you’ll make it. Stop it! You are here for a purpose. You are Queen Esther, called for such a time as this, equipped, purposed and predestined to cover the deficits that move your heart and consume your mind. All that wonderin’ and worryin’ is but a distraction, to keep you focused on yourself, causing you to miss the bigger picture while you concentrate only on your own imperfection. This whole world, this whole production was put together by the greatest artist of the universe, the Great Creator. He knows it all. In His goodness, grace and mercy, He has given us a chance to participate in His work. It is art but it’s not complicated. Don’t overthink this. It’s paint my numbers and, baby, you already know your color and number. Pick up the brush, baby. Pick up the mic, the book, the math, the camera, the pen, the hammer, the ax, the broom, pick it all up and move. Move, for your time is now and we slid over and made for room for you because we knew that you could do it. So do it.
“Life exacts a high toll.” Ruby would say. “So stand up inside yourself and know that you are God’s child.” Maya would add.
And I would dab at my tears, square my shoulders and say, “Amen.”
Photo Credit: Gawker