I must admit when I first heard her name spoken a couple of weeks ago on the local NPR station, I thought I had no clue who Ruby Dee was until I saw her picture again. Who can forget Ruby Dee, the longtime actress of the big screen and small, whose loving union with Ossie Davis brought together two immensely passionate and gifted thespians that endured the strife of segregation and was a source for social change? In fact, I was little aware of the activism she was apart of throughout her life, especially her participation in the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.
Sometimes I forget the march was far more than MLK’s speech, nor was it solely a product of his labor, but rather it was the dedication and commitment from people, like Ruby and other leaders, whose combined efforts helped pull off the history-making protest, all in an immense effort to both change the face of American society and address income inequality. Two issues we still face today!
But I’ll let Ms. Dee describe the march in her own words:
Her spirit will surely be missed.
Whether backing up the idiosyncratic soloing in a jazz ensemble, keeping the funky pace of a gospel choir, pulsing down the colonial streets of Salvador, or speaking to the syncretic, or hybridized, gods of the Candomblé religion; the drum is the quintessential instrument of Black America. Reconfigured from the bark and timbers of the New World, drums were deeply embedded in the lives and memories of enslaved Africans, who made the voyage across the Atlantic.
Afro-Brazilian culture is still very much shaped by sounds and rhythms drawn from the vibrations of tightened hides and hallowed out wood. There is the martial arts tradition of capoeira, which often involves two people engaged in a rhythmic dance in lock step with beat of an atabaque:
The spiritual knowledge tradition also relies on the sacred drumming of the Alabé, or spiritual drummers, that set the dancers down the path of enlightenment:
Even the streets of chocolate cities like Salvador can be showered by a procession of drummers that mark its many festivals and rites:
And let’s not forget the complex rhythms of la samba, which is played most fervently during Carnival, in the streets of Rio de Janeiro.
There’s something magical about the drum. Somewhere between two skins, air is vibrated to pulsating sounds that are deeply rooted in African culture, throughout the Américas.
In remembrance of Maya Angelou, we should not mourn so much the passing of one the world’s greatest voices, but celebrate a life, lived fully and freely shared. We celebrate a woman who possessed a poetic prowess that was only overshadowed by the melodic timber of her own voice. More than just a writer, orator, ambassador, and scholars, Maya Angelou was a fighter who drew upon the lessons of her own life to inspire, challenge, and cry with her readers. Though her young life was marked by tragedy and strife, so common in Black experience, she rose to the highest strata in the professional and spiritual realms. With a long list of influential friends, including both MLK Jr. and Malcolm X, Angelou was last heard in her eulogy for Nelson Mandela. Certainly she will be remembered for her words, but we share here her voice, which harkened the oral tradition of Black America to empower each spoken word with a majesty and spirit that reached to the heavens.