Happy 100th Birthday, Ossie Davis

Ossie Davis headshotBy Shelia Poole – The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, December 18, 2017

Legendary actor, playwright, and civil rights activist Ossie Davis would have turned 100 today.
“It’s a big wow for us,” said daughter Nora Davis Day. “He really wasn’t much for celebrating his personal birthday. He used to say, ‘Look, I was born, I couldn’t help it, let’s not make a big deal.’ As he got older and had grandchildren we would always celebrate using his birthday as a platform to get people together to discuss issues like freedom…and what we can do now.”

He, who was born in Cogdell, Ga., died in 2005 at age 87 in Miami where he was filming a movie.

Day said there will be several events happening over the next few months to further celebrate his birth. The family, for instance, is in talks with the National African American Museum of History and Culture in Washington, D.C. to donate some of his personal items.

On the stage, he starred in “Purlie Victorious,” “Jamaica” and “I’m Not Rappaport.”

His film and TV work included Spike Lee’s “Do the Right Thing,” “Jungle Fever,” as well as “The Client” and “Roots: The Next Generation.”

Davis was also part of an actor powerhouse duo that included his wife, iconic actor, Ruby Dee.

As much as he was known for his acting ability, Davis was also a major figure in the civil rights movement. He spoke at the 1963 March on Washington and delivered the eulogies for slain leader Malcolm X.

The Davises marched alongside some of the veteran civil rights leaders such as the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

Another daughter, Hasna Muhammad, said their father “would want us to celebrate in a way that benefited other people and draw attention to the issues today. I think he would have been happy to make it to 100. He would be grateful then turn inward to family and prayer.”

Today, his birthday is just one point on a line, Muhammad said.

She asks people to send up prayers and positive energy.

“We want to use the occasion of their lives and legacy to bring them into the public discourse around issues that are very important still to this day. There are still issues of civil and human rights that are plaguing this country right now. We believe if they were around now they would be very vocal and very active in the resistance and try to effect change on issues like police violence, mass incarceration, the death penalty and voting. They would have something to say.”