- Preface in book by writer
- Ossie Davis lives a few blocks from our community
radio station. I will leave it to others to assess and evaluate
his contributions to the theater, film, and television. We know
him as a neighbor who has a deep and abiding love for his home
health. Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee, his brilliant, talented wife
of fifty years, are among Westchester's most beloved citizens.
To me, he is only an authentic, living, modern-day saint.
- It was a morning in winter, and my shoulders were heavy with
the cold. I sat at a kitchen table on Sunday morning and read
in the local Gannett newspaper that a policeman of this city
called Ossie Davis a "subversive." This particular
subversive is described as: "A male Negro, 6 feet and 2
inches, 195 pounds, born December 18, 1927 in Cogdell, Georgia,
the son of Charles Kince and Laura Cooper Kince. Attended Howard
University, 1935 to 1938. Married to the former Ruby Wallace
on 9/19/48. Stage name now: Ruby Dee (a known Communist sympathizer).
Three children: Nora, Guy and Lawrence."
- And what did this Ossie Davis do to earn his very own file
in the police department of the city he has distinguished for
so long? He produced a show for a dangerous group called Freedom
Riders. In that sinister production was another "known Communist
sympathizer" named Pete Seeger as well as the previously
mentioned woman, "Ruby Wallace, a/k/a Ruby Dee."
- During this period, when he was a threat to our republic,
Ossie Davis "appeared with Dr. Spock" and "spoke
in support of the anti-draft and anti-war movement." They
even had exact dates. On December 7, 1961, he signed a statement
entitled: "Could Westchester Survive a Nuclear Attack?"
In 1966 he sponsored a Voter's March in Washington." On
and on. You felt sick that your police chief was writing and
accumulating things like this about a neighbor. And a nice tidy
piece of police work it was, leaving out any mention of other
subversive works, such as A Raisin in the Sun or Purlie
Victorious - or any of Ossie Davis's other priceless gifts
to the American theater.
- As bad as I felt at the kitchen table that Sunday morning,
I believe I shall have a great, good laugh about all this when
Mr. Davis next comes right through the front door of this radio
station, WVOX, which he calls his hometown station. It
will be fairly soon, I expect, when he will appear in my office
to speak a word for one of his current subversive causes
or to enlist the conscience of our listeners to right some damn
awful thing done to some forgotten and hurting souls in our home
- But on Sunday, while the Gannett exclusive story about his
most questionable past was being delivered around the county,
"the subversive" was actually preaching in one of those
big, Black, Baptist churches. As he waited to be introduced to
a huge congregation of ladies in their dresses and white gloves,
the regular minister called him "an inspiration, the most
valuable Westchester citizen of our time, a great American actor,
a brilliant playwright and director, and our neighbor."
But now we know better, thanks to the official files of our own
- I couldn't resist sharing this marvelous story with the governor
of my own state of New York, Mario M. Cuomo, who, with all his
talk about the poor and homeless, is pretty subversive in his
own right these days. So there I was on the telephone Sunday
morning, spreading the word about these dazzling revelations
concerning a neighbor and just what my police department had
to say about Ossie Davis and the former Ruby Wallace. And Mario
Cuomo fell silent for a moment and then he said into the telephone:
"You know, it really wasn't that long ago." The governor
is right. It happened in the good old days, in our city.
- January 29, 1985