(Photo via The Journal News)
Da Mayor (Ossie Davis): Doctor . . .
Mookie (Spike Lee): C'mon, what. What?
Da Mayor: Always do the right thing.
Mookie: That's it?
Da Mayor: That's it.
Mookie: I got it, I'm gone.
-- Do the Right Thing (1989)
Can we please have a moment of silence . . .
For Ossie Davis (1917-2005) (real name: Raiford Chatman Davis), a prominent figure in television, films and on stage, who died Friday in Miami. He was 87. The veteran actor-director's grandson, who discovered Ossie's body in a Miami Beach, Fla. hotel room, said Ossie was suffering from heart disease. His wife, actress Ruby Dee, was in New Zealand making a movie at the time of Ossie's death, according to his agent Michael Livingston.
Ossie appeared in dozens of television shows and over 30 films, most notably in Spike Lee's Do the Right Thing (1989), Jungle Fever (1992) and She Hates Me (2004). Not to mentioned he was also an influential filmmaker during the blaxiploitation era having directed Cotten Comes To Harlem and other films. A sadden Spike Lee reflected on the passing of his "spiritual adviser" who was beloved by everyone. "I've just been talking all day with everybody I know who also knew Ossie," he says. "Everybody loved and respected Ossie. There was no way you couldn't love him."
Outside of his profession, Ossie also participated in a lifetime of activism for civil rights, but also was determined to change the often dehumanizing depictions of African Americans in the entertainment industry. "The great thing I got from Ruby and Ossie, is that you could be an activist and an artist, too," Spike told film critic Roger Ebert. "They were strong and brave at a time when many Negro entertainers stood on the sidelines. Ruby and Ossie were by [Malcolm X's] side, they were with [Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.] in Birmingham, Selma and the March on Washington, and never worried about the negative impact it might have on their careers."
In March 2003, Ossie was one of tens of thousands taking part in an anti-war march in Manhattan. "I believe that when the people are in motion, that's America at its best," the long-time activist told The Journal News before the rally began. "And when the people begin to move, I insist on being there. I want to be part of the movement. This movement is for peace. I believe it will grow and grow and grow until even the war makers will hear us."
A tribute in honor of Mr. Davis' legacy is set for Monday at the New York Public Library's Schomburg Center in Harlem. The Rev. Al Sharpton, two of the children of Malcolm X and actors Denzel Washington, Wesley Snipes and Delroy Lindo are expected to appear at the event.
Ossie Davis is survived by his wife, Ruby, and their three children Nora Davis Day, Hasna Muhammad and actor Guy Davis.
**Bonus: Read Ossie Davis's eloquent eulogy to the late Malcolm X HERE.
Rest in peace, Ossie.