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BY LATOYA CROSS

The arts should serve the people.

Art and struggle brought them together. Love and dedication kept them united. For decades, Ossie Davis (1917-2005) and Ruby Dee (1922-2014) illuminated society through film, stage and activism in the community.

Their passion, rage, use of voice and resources made the couple completely fascinating and a force to be respected. For the admired couple, arts and activism were synonymous, and their bodies of work, on and off stage, continue to resonate and touch lives today.

Broken down into chapters that capture the essence of the couple’s life together and as individuals, Life Essentials with Ruby Dee: Love, Art and Activism, an intimate documentary, paints a portrait filled with artistic responsibility wrapped in the sincere arms of love.

Told from a coming-of-age perspective through compelling conversations between Ruby, Ossie and their grandson, Muta’ Ali, Life Essentials invites all to dig deeper into our past in order to understand how to operate in the present and future.

“The piece starts off with a verse from Proverbs: “Where there is no vision, the people perish,” and that is what grandpa would often say in interviews,” Muta’ Ali shares with EBONY. “You could take that to mean that if you don’t keep an eye on what’s happening, you will be lost and in order to keep an eye on what’s happening, you have to look to your elders who can give you context and an understanding of where you are today versus where you came from.”

The documentary, now available on DVD and various digital platforms, is a history lesson on love through the rough and vibrancy through action.

In this EBONY interview, we speak with Muta’ Ali about lessons learned from his grandparents and how he carries their legacy into his art as a filmmaker.

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