Thursday, March 31, 2016


Constance Baker Motley was a legal advocate in the Civil Rights Movement. She became the first female African-American federal judge in 1966.


From Common Dreams
   "You may not know her name, but you have been affected by the legal battles she won and the precedents she set that helped shape civil rights, women’s rights and human rights. A brilliant lawyer and distinguished federal judge for over forty years, Constance Baker Motley (1921-2005) quietly helped change the course of American history. She is one of many unsung civil rights heroines who waded into the Big Muddy of American racism, but whose name today remains relatively unknown.

   "In 1950, Constance Baker Motley wrote the first brief in the historic 1954 Supreme Court decision, Brown vs. Board of Education, that declared segregated public schools unconstitutional. In 1962, she successfully argued before the Supreme Court for the admission of James Meredith, a black man, to the all-white University of Mississippi. As a Federal Judge in 1978, her breakthrough decision for women in sports broadcasting allowed female reporters into the locker rooms of Major League Baseball.

   "As an African American woman, her achievements set new standards for what was possible for all women: she was the first black woman to argue before the U.S. Supreme Court, the first black woman to be elected to the New York State Senate, the first to be elected President of the Borough Council of Manhattan, and the first black woman ever appointed to the Federal bench (to the southern district of New York in 1964 by Lyndon Johnson). But it was her courageous legal work for victims of discrimination and oppression in the Deep South that made her a pivotal figure in American history."

   "From humble origins in New Haven, CT, she was born Constance Baker in 1921, the ninth of twelve children, to immigrant parents from the West Indian island of Nevis. Her father was a chef at Yale, her mother a domestic worker. Too poor to attend college, young Baker’s organizing and speaking on behalf of her neighborhood community center prompted local philanthropist, Clarence Blakeslee, to offer her funds in 1939 to attend the college of her choice. She chose Fisk University in Nashville, TN, but once there experienced southern-style segregation, and quickly transferred to NYU, where she earned her undergraduate degree in 1943. She enrolled next at Columbia Law School and graduated in 1946, the same year she married her husband, Joel Motley, a lawyer and real estate broker, and joined the NAACP Legal Defense Fund (LDF) as a full-time staff member under its leader, Thurgood Marshall.

   "Under Marshall, she was involved in every important civil rights case of the era, quickly rising to prominence at the center of America’s civil rights firestorms in the 1950s and ‘60s. Her work as a brilliant lawyer and key strategist with the NAACP ‘s LDF (1946-66) brought her into close association with Dr. Martin Luther King, where she played critical roles that helped desegregate southern schools, buses, and lunch counters.

   “She was a dogged opponent of Southern segregationists, who found her tougher than Grant at Vicksburg,” said Jack Greenberg, leader of the LDF after Thurgood Marshall was appointed federal judge. “She dug in to a position and wouldn't let go in the face of threats, evasion, obfuscation, and delay." For the two tumultuous decades King led nonviolent protests in the streets, Motley fought fiercely, steadily and courageously for civil rights in the courts. The two went hand in glove."

“Integrity was her middle name,” says Barbara Delaney, a friend of Motley’s for over forty years in Chester, CT. The Motley’s had purchased a home in this small, rural community on the Connecticut River in 1965, the year Motley stepped into her role as Manhattan Borough President. “They wanted a place to get away from New York for weekends, for peace and quiet in the country,“ Delaney explained. “Most residents of the town—even today—had no idea who had come to live in their midst.” As the first African American woman to argue before the U.S. Supreme Court, Motley won nine of her ten cases, including the landmark 1954 Brown vs. Board of Education, and her equally famous 1962 James Meredith desegregation case at the University of Mississippi. The tenth decision, which would have allowed blacks to sit on juries, was eventually overturned in her favor. There were also the legal cases she argued in lower courts for integration at the University of Florida, Georgia and South Carolina."

   "While Motley’s name is not a household word, we do know the names—and can remember many of the cases—that illuminated national personalities and stories. Besides James Meredith, there was Charlayne Hunter-Gault, who Motley got admitted as the first black to the University of Georgia at Albany in 1961. Hunter-Gault went on to become a star on PBS’ MacNeil-Lehrer Report, a chief correspondent for National Public Radio, as well as a writer for the New York Times. Harvey Gantt followed in 1963 at Clemson University in South Carolina. He went on to found his own architectural firm, then became mayor of Charlotte, SC and is today the subject of PBS‘—The Education of Harvey Gantt.

   "Motley won a difficult court victory for Vivian Malone Jones in the second University of Alabama case in 1963, despite opposition from the state’s pugnacious governor, George Wallace. He had made school desegregation his cause, stating in his inaugural address on the steps of the state capitol in Jan. 1963, “Segregation today, segregation tomorrow and segregation forever!” But Motley succeeded in getting Malone admitted, and she went on to work in the civil rights division of the U.S. Justice Department. Wallace later recanted his racist positions."

   "In perhaps the most notorious case, known as the “Little Rock Nine,” Attorney Motley successfully won enrollment for nine black high school students at racially segregated Central High in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1957. With court order in-hand, the nine students were physically blocked from the school by Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus, using his state’s National Guard. This precipitated the “Little Rock Crisis” in which President Dwight D. Eisenhower sent federal troops to the city to quell the white opposition, and escort the students into class. He also federalized the entire 10,000-man Arkansas National Guard, effectively taking their deployment out of the hands of Gov. Faubus and defusing the situation, and setting an important precedent.

   "Working seriatim and side by side with Dr. King, Motley’s persistent legal advocacy brought rulings that not only ended segregation in southern schools, but also desegregated countless restaurants and whites-only lunch counters in Tennessee and Alabama. She petitioned for King's right to march in Georgia, and visited him in jail—as his lawyer. She sang freedom songs in fire-bombed black churches, and spent time in Mississippi under armed guard helping to protect Medgar Evers, the famed civil rights leader, later murdered in 1963 by a white supremacist.

   "Motley constantly imperiled her own life by being in the courts of the Deep South at a time and place where racial tensions burned white-hot. And even as she became a lightning rod for the massive white resistance to school desegregation and the target of taunting mobs, demonstrations and verbal abuse, she retained her dignity, a calm demeanor, and her classic string of pearls befitting a well-dressed, successful litigator."

   “She had a quiet confidence,” remembers Delaney, Motley’s Chester, CT friend, now 91. “There was such dignity about Constance.” She was also likeable and outgoing, and according to Delaney “had a graciousness about her that was charming. She also had this enormous presence and a voice that made you listen!”

   "In her 1998 autobiography, Equal Justice Under Law, Motley cautioned that racism has not been eradicated and will “follow us and bewilder us” into the next century. Harvard Law Professor Derrick Bell, who was co-counsel on the Meredith case with her, wrote that her memoir “reminds us how one courageous and persistent individual can make a difference.”

   "Motley remained on the federal bench in New York, including a term as Chief Justice (another first), until her death in 2005, age 84. In 2012, the inspiring, award-winning documentary film, Justice is a Black Woman, chronicling Motley’s life and work, was produced by Quinnipiac University in Hamden, CT, and was aired on PBS. (Available for purchase from its producers, contact: Susan.Scoopo[at]quinnipiac[dot]edu)"

   "The outsized importance—but relative obscurity—of Judge Motley’s name in the civil rights canon parallels that of many other black women whose names are still unknown to us today, yet whose organizing and leadership efforts were essential to the human rights progress achieved during the civil rights era.

   "Just as the legal battles Motley fought in the courts were necessary to the success of King’s crusades in the streets, so too were the efforts of local (mostly female) black organizers who, at great personal cost to their lives, preceded and paved the way for King’s appearances in every area of the South.

   "To mention just a few names who are on the invisible black heroines list from every southern state, we should remember the work of: Ella Baker, Fannie Lou Hamer, Dorothy Height, Daisy Bates, Dorothy Cotton, Marie Foster, Prathia Hall, Amelia Boynton, Claudette Colvin, Colia Lafayette, Septima Clark, McCree Harris, Shirley Sherrod, Diane Nash, Johnnie Carr, Thelma Glass, Georgia Gilmore, Rosa Williams, JoAnn Robinson, Vera Piggy, and all the wives of the many visible black male leaders.

   "The questions of why and how the interwoven systems of race, gender and class obscured the leadership value and recognition that Judge Motley and other black women deserve, are yet to be fully answered. In the meantime, we should learn more about these remarkable women and what they did in the civil rights movement. Judge Motley is a very good start." - 
Black Past - 
New York Times obituary - -   
Columbia Law School Tribute - 
Encyclopedia Britannica -    
NBC News - 
Common Dreams - Justice is a Black Woman -  

Monday, March 28, 2016


“Radical simply means “grasping things at the root.””

   Angela Davis was interviewed on Democracy Now! this morning. I actually had decided to talk about her before this but it was a lovely convergence. Serendipitous? What is that word I want?  
   I cannot pinpoint the moment I became aware of Angela Davis as a leader and activist.  I know she played a role in my thoughts of women as leaders -- she gave me some hope. It didn't surprise me too much that she teaches in the Department of Feminist Studies at UC Santa Cruz.  A friend told me the lovely story of two young women whose mother left them with their father and went off to become what she had intended to become.  It wasn't until these two women studied with Angela Davis at UCSC that they understood their mothers' reasons and could accept that the plight of a woman is a most difficult one.
   I had a mother who should have been a writer, a pianist, a singer, and definitely an actress. But she was too poor to do any of these things.  She did end up writing at the end of her life -- short stories and poetry.  But had she not been poor and a woman, I feel she would have done much more.   Her one lesson to me was to teach me to be economically independent of any man -- while not so much in words did she teach this, but by example.  
    Angela Davis was an iconic presence all through my activism days in the 1960s and 70s.  She loomed large in my thoughts and imagination. I am grateful they did not kill her -- a communist, an African American, and a woman who never gave up, never lost her voice.  The strength of this woman is boundless.  Did you know there was a world wide movement to free her?   I know the anti-communists trolling the Internet will come out and attack her as a Communist. Well in fact, she is one and she is proud of it.  Or she was one, is still a socialist, and proud of it!! She said today that she we need a third party in this country.  I hope she can help to found one.

   "Davis was born in Birmingham, Alabama, on January 26, 1944, the eldest of four children. Her family was relatively well-off among the blacks in the city. Her father and mother were teachers in the Birmingham school system, and her father later purchased and operated a service station.

   "When Davis was four years old, the family moved out of the Birmingham projects and bought a large wooden house in a nearby neighborhood. Other black families soon followed. Incensed white neighbors drew a dividing line between the white and black sections and began trying to drive the black families out by bombing their homes. The area soon was nicknamed Dynamite Hill. Davis's mother had in college been involved in antiracism movements that had brought her into contact with sympathetic whites. She and Davis's father tried to teach their daughter that this hostility between blacks and whites was not preordained.

   "All of Birmingham was segregated during Davis's childhood. She attended blacks-only schools and theaters and was relegated to the back of city buses and the back doors of shops, which rankled her. On one occasion, as teenagers, Davis and her sister Fania entered a Birmingham shoe store and pretended to be non-English-speaking French visitors. After receiving deferential treatment by the salesmen and other customers, Davis announced in English that black people only had to pretend to be from another country to be treated like dignitaries."

   "Davis later wrote that although the black schools she attended were much poorer than the white schools in Birmingham, her studies of black historical and contemporary figures such as frederick douglass, sojourner truth, and Harriet Tubman helped her develop a strong positive identification with black history.

"We have accumulated a wealth of historical experience which confirms our belief that the scales of justice are out of balance."
—Angela Davis

   "The civil rights movement was beginning to touch Birmingham at the time Davis entered high school. Her parents were members of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (naacp). In her junior year of high school, Davis decided to leave what she considered to be the provincialism of Birmingham.

   "She applied for an early entrance program at Fisk University, in Nashville, Tennessee, and an experimental program developed by the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) through which black students from the South could attend integrated high schools in the North. Although Davis was admitted to Fisk—which she viewed as a stepping-stone to medical school, where she could pursue a childhood dream of becoming a pediatrician—she chose the AFSC program."

   "At age 15, she boarded a train for New York City. There, she lived with a white family headed by an Episcopalian minister who had been forced from his church after speaking out against Senator joseph r. mccarthy's anti-Communist witch-hunts. Davis attended Elisabeth Irwin High School, located on the edge of Greenwich Village. The school originally had been a public school experiment in progressive education; when funding was cut off, the teachers turned it into a private school. Here, Davis learned about socialism and avidly studied the Communist Manifesto. She also joined a Marxist-Leninist youth organization called Advance, which had ties to the Communist Party.

  "In September 1961, Davis entered Brandeis University, in Waltham, Massachusetts, on a full scholarship. One of only three black first-year students, she felt alienated and alone. The following summer, eager to meet revolutionary young people from other countries, Davis attended a gathering of communist youth from around the world in Helsinki, Finland. Here, she was particularly struck by the cultural presentations put on by the Cuban delegation. She also found that the U.S. central intelligence agency had stationed agents and informers throughout the festival. Upon her return to the United States, Davis was met by an investigator from the federal bureau of investigation(FBI), who questioned her about her participation in a communist event.

   "Meeting people from around the world convinced Davis of the importance of tearing down cultural barriers like language, and she decided to major in French at Brandeis. She was accepted in the Hamilton College Junior Year in France Program, and studied contemporary French literature at the Sorbonne, in Paris. Upon her return to Brandeis, Davis, who had always had an interest in philosophy, studied with the German philosopher Herbert Marcuse. The following year, she received a scholarship to study philosophy in Frankfurt, Germany, where she focused on the works of the Germans Immanuel Kant, Georg Hegel, and Karl Marx."

   "During the two years Davis spent in Germany, the black liberation and black power movements were emerging in the United States. The Black Panther Party for self-defense had been formed in Oakland to protect the black community from police brutality. In the summer of 1967, Davis decided to return home to join these movements.

   "Back in Los Angeles, Davis worked with various academic and community organizations to build a coalition to address issues of concern to the African American community. Among these groups was the Black Panther Political Party (unrelated to huey newton and Bobby Seale's Black Panther Party for Self-Defense). During this period, Davis was heavily criticized by black male activists for doing what they considered to be men's work. Women should not assume leadership roles, they claimed, but should educate children and should support men so that they could direct the struggle for black liberation. Davis was to encounter this attitude in many of her political activities.

   "By 1968, Davis had decided to join a collective organization in order to achieve her goal of organizing people for political action. She first considered joining the Communist Party. But because she related more to Marxist groups, she decided instead to join the Black Panther Political Party, which later became the Los Angeles branch of the student nonviolent coordinating committee (SNCC). SNCC was soon embroiled in internal disputes. After her longtime friend Franklin Kenard was expelled from his leadership position in the group because of his Communist Party membership, Davis resigned from the organization. In July 1968, she joined the Che-Lumumba Club, the black cell of the Communist Party in Los Angeles.

   "In 1969, Davis was hired as an assistant professor of philosophy at the University of California, Los Angeles. In July 1969, Davis joined a delegation of Communist Party members who had been invited to spend a month in Cuba. There, she worked in coffee and sugarcane fields, and visited schools, hospitals, and historical sites. Davis remarked that everywhere she went in Cuba, she was immensely impressed with the gains that had been made against racism. She saw blacks in leadership positions throughout the country, and she concluded that only under a socialist system such as that established by Cuban leader Fidel Castro could the fight against racism have been so successful.

   "When she returned to the United States, she discovered that several newspaper articles had been published detailing her membership in the Communist Party and accusing her of activities such as gunrunning for the Black Panther party. Governor Ronald Reagan, of California, invoked a regulation in the handbook of the regents of the University of California that prohibited the hiring of communists.   Davis responded by affirming her membership in the Communist Party, and she began to receive hate mail and threatening phone calls. After she obtained an injunction prohibiting the regents from firing her, the threats multiplied. Soon, she was receiving so many bomb threats that the campus police stopped checking her car for explosives, forcing her to learn the procedure for doing so herself. By the end of the year, the courts had ruled that the regulation prohibiting the hiring of communists was unconstitutional. However, in June 1970, the regents announced that Davis would not be rehired the following year, on the grounds that her political speeches outside the classroom were unbefitting a university professor."

   "During this time, Davis became involved with the movement to free three black inmates of Soledad Prison in California: George Jackson, John Clutchette, and Fleeta Drumgo. The men, known as the Soledad Brothers, had been indicted for the murder of a prison guard. The guard had been pushed over a prison railing when he inadvertently stumbled into a rebellion among black prisoners caused by the killing of three black prisoners by another prison guard. Although Jackson, Clutchette, and Drumgo claimed there was no evidence that they had killed the guard, they were charged with his murder. Davis began corresponding with Jackson and soon developed a personal relationship with him. She attended all the court hearings relating to the Soledad Brothers' indictment, along with many other supporters, including Jackson's younger brother, Jonathon Jackson, who was committed to freeing his brother and the other inmates. On August 7, 1970, using guns registered to Davis, Jonathon attempted to free his brother in a shoot-out at the Marin County Courthouse. Four people were killed, including Jonathon and superior court judge Harold Haley.

   "Davis was charged with kidnapping, conspiracy, and murder, which was punishable in California by death. She fled, traveling in disguise from Los Angeles to Las Vegas, Chicago, Detroit, New York, Miami, and finally back to New York. In October 1970, she was arrested by the FBI, which had placed her on its most wanted list. In December, after two months in jail, Davis was extradited to California, where she spent the next 14 months in jail. She later said that this period was pivotal to her under-standing of the black political struggle in the United States. Having worked to organize people in communities and on campuses against political repression, Davis now found herself a victim of that repression. In August 1971, while incarcerated in the Marin County Jail, she was devastated to learn that George Jackson had been killed by a guard in San Quentin Prison, allegedly while trying to escape.

   "In February 1972, Davis was released on bail following the California Supreme Court's decision to abolish the death penalty (People v. Anderson, 6 Cal. 3d 628, 100 Cal. Rptr. 152, 493 P. 2d 880). Previously, bail had not been available to persons accused of crimes punishable by death. Her trial began a few days later, and lasted until early June 1972, when a jury acquitted her of all charges."

   "After her acquittal, Davis resumed her teaching career, at San Francisco State University. She continued her affiliation with the Communist Party, receiving the Lenin Peace Prize from the Soviet Union in 1979 and running for vice president of the United States on the Communist Party ticket in 1980 and 1984. Davis is also a founder and cochair of the National Alliance against Racist and Political Repression, and is on the national board of the National Political Congress of Black Women and on the board of the Atlanta-based National Black Women's Health Project. She has authored several books, including Angela Davis: An Autobiography (1974), Women, Race, and Class (1983), Women, Culture, and Politics (1989), and Blues Legacies and Black Feminism (1998). In 1980, she married Hilton Braithwaite, a photographer and faculty colleague at San Francisco State. The marriage ended in divorce several years later.

   "In 1991, Davis began teaching an interdisciplinary graduate program titled the History of Consciousness at the University of California, Santa Cruz. In 1994, she found herself again surrounded by controversy when she was awarded a prestigious University of California President's Chair by university president Jack Peltason. The appointment provides $75,000 over several years to develop new ethnic studies courses. Some state lawmakers were outraged over the award and unsuccessfully demanded that Peltason rescind the appointment. Davis held the position until 1997.

   "In the late 1990s and early 2000s, Davis was still speaking out against and writing about the plight of persons she considered to be political prisoners, such as Indian activist Leonard Pelletier and ex-Black Panther Mumia Abu-Jamal, both convicted of killing law enforcement officers. She has continued to call for the decriminalization of prostitution on the basis that it would greatly reduce the number of women in prison. And she has lectured on what she calls the Prison Industrial Complex (PIC), positing that imprisonment has become the most common answer to societal problems and that corporations are profiting from prison labor thereby weakening the chances of prison reform. In 1997, Davis helped found Critical Resistance, an organization that seeks to build an international movement dedicated to dismantling the PIC.

   "Since the late 1970s, Davis has lectured throughout the United States and in countries in Africa, Europe, and Asia. She also remains a prolific author, producing numerous articles and essays. In 2003, in addition to writing and traveling for speaking engagements, Davis continued her work as tenured professor at the University of California at Santa Cruz."

THIS BIO FAILS TO MENTION A WORLD WIDE CAMPAIGN TO FREE ANGELA DAVIS. John Lennon and Mick Jagger wrote songs about her.  Here's Mick and Keith Richard's song - "SWEET BLACK ANGEL"
Got a sweet black angel
Got a pin up girl
Got a sweet black angel
Up upon my wall
Well, she ain't no singer 
And she ain't no star
But she sure talk good
And she move so fast
But the gal in danger
Yeah, de gal in chains
But she keep on pushin'
Would ya take her place? 
She countin' up de minutes
She countin' up de days
She's a sweet black angel, whoa
Not a sweet black slave

Ten little niggers 
Sittin' on de wall
Her brothers been a fallin'
Fallin' one by one
For a judge they murdered 
And a judge they stole
Now de judge he gonna judge her 
For all dat he's a worth

Well de gal in danger
De gal in chains
But she keep on pushin' 
Would you do the same? 
She countin' up de minutes
She countin' up de days
She's a sweet black angel
Not a gun toting teacher
Not a Red lovin' school mom
Ain't someone gonna free her
Free de sweet black slave
Free de sweet black slave
Free de sweet black slave
Free de sweet black slaveWriter/s: JAGGER, MICK/RICHARDS, KEITH 
Lyrics licensed and provided by LyricFind

   Angela Davis is a brilliant professor who has contributed much to the struggle for political and civil rights.  Please read her latest book above.  She also has an autobiography or two available.  Read with an open mind - and think #BLACKLIVESMATTER.

Further readings
Davis, Angela. 1974. Angela Davis: An Autobiography. New York: International Publishers.
James, Joy, ed. 1998. The Angela Y. Davis Reader. Malden, Mass.: Blackwell.
"The Two Nations of Black America: Interview with Angela Davis." 1998. PBS: Frontline. Available online at <> (accessed June 30, 2003).

IMDB Biography -   [this bio is pretty stupid and biased against her]
Colorlines interview on Prison/Industrial complex -  

Sunday, March 27, 2016



Felices Pascuas
   Today is Easter Sunday and I am at home with no plans to go out for dinner or even the park. I was never that interested in Easter as a holiday since I was raised to be at the least, Agnostic, and more likely an Atheist.  We did go to church, but it was a church that emphasized serving people and respecting nature. We held spiritual services that were focused on how we can make this world a better place.  So when I tried to read the blog of a respected blogger where she is highlighting her religious views for today, even if through the medium of another writer, I fail to understand the value of religion in this day and age.  If anything, I am convinced that religion holds us back from achieving what could be a much better world.  There are exceptions of course -- The Catholic Worker group, Liberation Theologists, etc.  But they are few and far between
    I still would like to wish everyone who does celebrate a Happy Easter.  As a child I loved to get my Easter basket, to color eggs, to go on an egg hunt. What all that had to do with the worship of Jesus I never knew.  But it made the holiday quite lovely.  And my poor mother tried to dress us up and get our hair done for Easter as if we were part of the whole charade.  It only worked to make me feel even frumpier and uglier than I thought I was.  So Easter could be fun, but it could also be associated with anxiety and the realization that I would never own beautiful clothes or look fashionable.  Easter was after all, the EASTER PARADE and the excuse to wear your best clothes, white gloves and a hat.

   Fortunately can spend this Easter sharing the life of a remarkable woman who was both an actress and an activist, who married her soulmate who shared her views of activism and joy of living.  Surprisingly I encountered mostly the Hollywood Reporter type accounts of Ruby Dee and very little serious scholarship about her.  I decided to use the CNN account of her life but there should be better ones one day.  There is a movie about her "Life's Essential with Ruby Dee" which should be the best.
   "Dee -- often with her late husband, Ossie Davis -- was a formidable force in both the performing arts community and the civil rights movement. The couple were master and mistress of ceremonies at the 1963 March on Washington, and she was friends with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. Dee received the Frederick Douglass Award in 1970 from the New York Urban League.

   "As an actress, her film credits included "The Jackie Robinson Story" (1950), "A Raisin in the Sun" (1961), "Buck and the Preacher" (1972), "Do the Right Thing" (1989) and "American Gangster" (2007).

   "Dee earned an Oscar nomination for her performance in "Gangster." She won an Emmy and Grammy for other work.

   "Dee was born Ruby Ann Wallace in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1922, and moved to New York's Harlem as a child. She took the surname Dee after marrying blues singer Frankie Dee two decades later. She divorced Dee after a short marriage and was wedded to Davis in 1948. Davis preceded his wife in death in 2005.

'With Ossie and Ruby'

   "Her acting career started in New York in the 1940s, first appearing onscreen in the 1946 musical "That Man of Mine." A role in "The Jackie Robinson Story" brought her national attention.

   "Dee became known to a younger generation with roles in two Spike Lee films. She co-starred with Davis in Lee's "Do the Right Thing" and in his 1991 film "Jungle Fever."

   "First lady Michelle Obama tweeted that she was "deeply saddened" by Dee's death. "I'll never forget seeing her in 'Do the Right Thing' on my first date with Barack."

   "Dee's television work included 20 episodes of "Peyton Place" in 1969 and the role of Queen Haley in the 1979 miniseries "Roots: The Next Generation."

   'The finest performance I have ever seen'

   "She was regularly praised for her acting.

   "In the 1961 film version of "Raisin," Lorraine Hansberry's play about a working-class black family trying to move up in the world, she played Ruth Younger, the wife of Sidney Poitier's striving Walter.

  "Miss Dee is quietly magnificent as the angry young man's hard-working wife," wrote Bosley Crowther in The New York Times.

   "Her stage work was equally lauded."

   "Ruby Dee as Lena is giving the finest performance I have ever seen," wrote The New York Times' Clive Barnes in 1970 of Dee in Athol Fugard's play "Boesman and Lena." "Never for a moment do you think she is acting."

   "She won an Obie for that performance in 1971.

    "Other awards included a 1972 Drama Desk award for "Wedding Band," a 1991 Emmy for "Decoration Day," a 2007 Grammy for spoken-word album and a Golden Globe for "American Gangster."

   "Actor Samuel L. Jackson, who was in "Jungle Fever" and "Do the Right Thing" with Dee, tweeted: "We Lost A Jewel Today, Mrs Ruby Dee, So Great, So Loved! R.I.P. All sympathy to her family."

Always an activist

   "Dee and Davis -- the two, who were married 56 years, always seemed connected -- were an odd couple in some ways: She from New York, he from Waycross, Georgia. She was small and stylish, he was big and bluff. But their beliefs were often as one, and they practiced what they preached.

   "We shared a great deal in common; we didn't have any distractions as to where we stood in society. We were black activists. We had a common understanding," she told Ebony in 1988.

   "Dee and Davis met while acting in the 1945 Broadway play "Jeb" in 1945. He proposed three years later with a telegram he sent from Chicago, where he was touring in a play, according to their joint autobiography "With Ossie and Ruby: In This Life Together," published near their 50th anniversary. The telegram to his girlfriend said he "might as well marry" her. Dee wrote back, "Don't do me any favors."

   "Their book revealed the challenges of their long marriage, including a phase in the 1960s in which they agreed they could sleep with others when work separated them. The arrangement lasted only a short time, they said. "We ultimately decided that what we had chosen as a possibility didn't really work for us," Davis said in 1999.

   "You have to learn how to be married," Dee said. "You have to learn to love somebody."

   "There was no television in their home for years, The New York Times observed in a 1995 profile, because "television represented an industry that refused to hire black people in significant numbers or in anything other than stereotypical roles."

   "They appeared at protest rallies and took their children with them. She admitted to a fiery temperament: In a famous "American Gangster" scene, she slaps star Denzel Washington across the face, noting she put everything into the motion."

   "It's not far from my nature to whack," she told USA Today. "There's a streak in me."

Ruby Dee, Ossie Davis arrested at protest

   "Dee and Davis were arrested in 1999 while protesting outside New York City police headquarters against the police shooting of an unarmed African immigrant, Amadou Diallo. Dee told reporters the shooting "reminds me of when there were lynchings all over the country."

"We've got to start saying 'No further. This must stop,' " Dee said.

   "Even before the appearances in Spike Lee movies made them famous faces again, Dee and Davis were always working, always pushing, whether it was producing a 1986 PBS special on King or creating a two-person show drawing on the work of African-American writer Zora Neale Hurston."

   "The two also shared a lot of laughter.

   "The life is the fun," she told the Times in 1995.

   "We walk in the middle of humor every day, and we laugh," Davis responded.

   "And we fight, too," Dee replied. "Yeah. I win."

   "Dee is survived by three children, Guy Davis, Hasna Muhammad Davis and Nora Day Davis."

People we've lost in 2014

There is so much more to be said but I've decide you can do a search too!

Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee - - 
Encyclopedia of World Biography - 
African American Registry - 
Life's Essentials with Ruby Dee - 
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Saturday, March 26, 2016


"Mrs. Kochiyama was an inspiration herself. For its 2011 album “Cinemetropolis,” the Seattle hip-hop group Blue Scholars composed a song about her. The refrain: “When I grow up I want to be just like Yuri Kochiyama.”

   Growing up in a politically aware family meant that I was taught to pay attention to peoples' struggles everywhere in the world, and even in my own backyard.  From age seven I lived in Hollywood, California in a mostly white neighborhood, attended white schools, and would've had a life of white privilege except my father could not find jobs beyond that of clerk typist.   The other aspect to my life was the First Unitarian Church of Los Angeles, a sanctuary for Reds and others who were blacklisted or exiled in the mean 1950s.  Fortunately it was also the most integrated institution in the city of Los Angeles.  My exposure to the thoughts and deeds of people such as Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, and Rosa Parks was fortunately extensive.  I lived two lives so to speak. My prim boring school life, and my rich commie church life.  Two of my church going friends also attended my mostly upper crust white high school.  When a group of leftists decided to protest the de facto segregation of Los Angeles City Schools (really, due to property covenants that kept African Americans out of white neighborhoods), my two friends and I leafletted outside our high school, and demonstrated at our Board of Education once a week.  The Principal of Hollywood High, Sutcliffe was his name I think, assembled the entire school in our lovely auditorium and proceeded to call us communists and to tell us that there WAS NO SEGREGATION IN THE NORTH.  Ha!

   I realize also that Yuri Kochiyama was living in Berkeley, California where I had attended the University of California.  Due to the history and our horrible treatment of Japanese Americans, there had been many alliances between Japanese and African Americans, though I believe mostly unknown. There was even a member of the Black Panther Party in Oakland, Richard Aoki, who was accepted and active as a leader.  As far as I knew, it was mostly only African Americans who welcomed back the Japanese Americans when they were released from the concentration camps.
   From Densho:  
   "Prominent Japanese American human rights activist in Harlem (1960s-1999) and Oakland (1999-present). Yuri Kochiyama (1921–2014 ) worked with Malcolm X and Black Power organizations. Leader of the Asian American and redress movements in New York City. During World War II, she organized an extensive letter writing campaign to Nisei soldiers."

   "Mary Yuri Nakahara was born on May 19, 1921, in San Pedro, California, one of three children of immigrants Seiichi Nakahara, a fishmerchant entrepreneur with social connections to the Japanese elite, and Tsuyako "Tsuma" (Sawaguchi) Nakahara, a college-educated homemaker and occasional piano teacher. Kochiyama's community service began in her youth as a Sunday school teacher and leader of numerous girls' groups. In the late 1930s, when few Nisei participated in mainstream organizations, Kochiyama became the first female student body officer (vice president) at San Pedro High School and played on the school's tennis team. She was also a sports writer for the San Pedro News-Pilot. Some contend that her social consciousness began in childhood, where she befriended new students, rooted for the underdog sports team, and had her mother drop her off blocks from school, embarrassed by her family's relative affluence and fancy car. But Kochiyama denies having any political awareness, stating that she got car sick.

   "She graduated from high school in 1939 and Compton Junior College in 1941. Years later, her journalism and English majors and art minor served her well as a writer for Movement newspapers and an illustrator of political picket signs. But at the time, her ethical humanitarianism, rooted in Christianity, provided few clues of her later radicalism. Instead, she wanted to marry and have children.

   "Given her domestic aspirations it is curious that she gained little housekeeping and childcare training, preoccupied instead with extracurricular activities. Her twin brother Peter, who did the most chores, was tolerant of his sister's limited housework, but her older brother Art was not. Peter attributed his siblings' conflict to "Mary [being] so different and Art [being] just such a typical Nisei."[1] While lacking any feminist consciousness, her behaviors foreshadowed her rebelliousness and ability to circumvent making housework her individual responsibility."

   "On December 7, 1941, Kochiyama had barely returned home from teaching Sunday school when three FBI agents arrived. Kochiyama's father, home recovering from ulcer surgery, was whisked away and, unbeknownst to the family for days, detained at the Terminal Island federal penitentiary. Rumors abounded that her father was an enemy spy and Kochiyama was expelled from several organizations. The family believed Nakahara's arrest arose from his supplying Japanese ships docking in San Pedro harbor and hosting Japanese ship officials at his home. Three other issues were prominent to the FBI. First, FBI records show that Nakahara's name was found among the papers of Itaru Tachibana, a Japanese naval officer arrested in June 1941 on espionage charges, as a result of Nakahara's 1937 donation to the Nippon Kaigun Kyokai or Japanese Navy Association. Second, the FBI intercepted a cable declining a visit with Nakahara from his childhood friend Kichisaburo Nomura, the Japanese Ambassador negotiating peace with the US throughout 1941. Third, Nakahara served as head of the San Pedro Japanese Association and the Central Japanese Association of Southern California in the early 1920s.[2] None of these activities rendered Nakahara subversive. It is now known that Nakahara was one of 1,300 Japanese American community leaders detained within the first 48 hours of Pearl Harbor. Nakahara's six-week detention aggravated his health problems and he died on January 21, 1942, the day after his release.

   "Her father's premature death and her own incarceration, first at the Santa Anita assembly center and then at Jerome, Arkansas, did not awaken any political outrage in Kochiyama. But she gained racial pride inside the all-Japanese environment, and coped by being of service and keeping busy. She and other young women welcomed new arrivals at the camp's entrance with upbeat tunes. She also organized her Sunday school teens, the Crusaders, to write to Nisei soldiers, including Kochiyama's twin brother. In time, the Crusaders—disbursed to camps at Poston, Heart Mountain, Topaz, Rohwer, and Jerome—were sending holiday greetings and letters to some 3,000 Nisei soldiers. One Crusader remembered how Kochiyama's kindnesses and activities helped offset her deep loneliness. Kochiyama's gradual awareness of social problems was mixed with ambivalence about being subjected to racism. She wrote in her camp diary: "But not until I myself actually come up against prejudice and discrimination will I really understand the problems of the Nisei."[3]

   "Kochiyama's correspondence became public news, as she printed excerpts from soldiers' letters in her Jerome camp newspaper column, "Nisei in Khaki." She also supported Nisei solders at the Jerome USO, where she met her future husband, the charming and strikingly handsome Pvt. Bill Kochiyama."

   "In early 1946, Yuri moved to New York City to marry Bill, recently returned from overseas. They raised six children, Billy, Audee, Aichi, Eddie, Jimmy, and Tommy. The Kochiyamas displayed fairly conventional gender roles, except that their many overnight guests and visitors often helped with housework. They were unusually active in community service, particularly supporting Japanese and Chinese American soldiers enroute to the Korean War. Every Friday and Saturday night, they opened their home for social gatherings, often with a hundred people, half of whom were strangers, crammed into their small housing project apartment. They also published an eight-page family newsletter, Christmas Cheer, annually from 1950 to 1968.

   "As the Civil Rights Movement grew, Yuri began inviting activists to speak at their open houses. In 1960, a move to Harlem inadvertently expanded their activism. With Yuri as the family's leading force, the Kochiyamas worked with the Harlem Parent's Committee, organizing school boycotts to demand quality education for inner-city children. Yuri was among the 600 arrested for blocking the entrance of a construction site to demand jobs for Black and Puerto Rican workers. In October 1963, at a Brooklyn courthouse, she met Malcolm X and boldly inquired if he might support integration. Instead of his transformation, she found herself unexpectedly drawn to his audacious proclamations for Black liberation.

   "In June 1964, at Yuri's invitation, Malcolm arrived at the Kochiyamas's to meet Japanese Hibakusha (atomic bomb survivors) and journalists on a world peace tour. She began attending the weekly Liberation School sessions of his Organization of Afro-American Unity. Kochiyama and her oldest son were in the audience at Harlem's Audubon Ballroom in 1965, when Malcolm X was assassinated. A photograph in Life magazine shows Kochiyama offering comfort to the slain leader, yet there is no mention of her by name or any acknowledgement of an Asian American presence at Malcolm's talk.

   "Kochiyama was soon working with the most militant Black nationalist organizations in Harlem, including the Republic of New Africa. When the police and FBI intensified their repression of Black activists, Yuri immersed herself in the struggles to support political prisoners, providing non-stop letter writing—often at two or three in the morning—prison visits, and activist mobilizations. She linked her support for incarcerated activists to her own wartime imprisonment, denouncing the unfairness of U.S. laws and practices.

   "Though relatively new to activism, the intensity of her work and connections with Black Power made Kochiyama a leader of the emerging Asian American Movement in the late 1960s. In New York City, she joined Asian Americans for Action and was a featured speaker at Hiroshima Day events, denouncing U.S. imperialism in Vietnam, Okinawa, and elsewhere. She supported ethnic studies at the City College of New York and the hiring of Chinese constructions workers at Confucius Plaza. She became a foremost bridge between the Black and Asian movements and between East and West Coast activists. California youth sought her guidance on visits to New York and took her two youngest sons to Los Angeles to live with Yellow Brotherhood activists. Her older children were active in the Asian American and Third World movements.

   "In the 1980s, Bill, who headed the media committee, and Yuri organized with Concerned Japanese Americans and later the East Coast Japanese Americans for Redress to demand that New York be added as a site of a Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians (CWRIC) hearings. During Bill's testimony in New York, Yuri and others defiantly marched in with political art, previously banned by CWRIC. Yuri testified before CWRIC in Washington D.C. She continues to link this victory to calls for Black reparations and her wartime experiences to oppose the post-9/11 "war on terrorism."

   "Kochiyama was one of the most prominent Asian American activists of the 20th century. Her life is featured in her memoirs, Passing It On (2004); the biography, Heartbeat of Struggle: The Revolutionary Life of Yuri Kochiyama (2005); and two documentaries, Yuri Kochiyama: Passion for Justice (1993) and Mountains that Take Wing (2009), as well as in hundreds of articles and films. She is revered for her six decades of intensive social justice commitments and for her compassionate focus on the individuals involved in the movement.[4]  "
Authored by Diane C. Fujino

Angela Davis and Yuri Kochiyama

For More Information:

Fujino, Diane C. Heartbeat of Struggle: The Revolutionary Life of Yuri Kochiyama. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 2005.

———. "Grassroots Leadership and Afro-Asian Solidarities: Yuri Kochiyama's Humanizing Radicalism." In Want to Start a Revolution?: Radical Women in the Black Freedom Struggle, edited by Dayo F. Gore, Jeanne Theoharis, and Komozi Woodard, 294-316. New York: New York University Press, 2009.

———. "The Black Liberation Movement and Japanese American Activism: The Radical Activism of Richard Aoki and Yuri Kochiyama." In Afro Asia: Revolutionary Political and Cultural Connections between African Americans and Asian Americans, edited by Fred Ho and Bill V. Mullen, 165-187. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2008.

Kochiyama, Yuri. Passing It On—A Memoir. Edited by Marjorie Lee, Akemi Kochiyama-Sardinha, and Audee Kochiyama-Holman. Los Angeles: UCLA Asian American Studies Center, 2004.

Mountains that Take Wing: Angela Davis and Yuri Kochiyama. Documentary. Directed by C.A. Griffith and H.L.T. Quan. Chicago: QUAD Productions, 2009.

Nakazawa, Mayumi. Yuri: The Life and Times of Yuri Kochiyama. Tokyo: Bungenshugu, 1998. [A Japanese-language biography.]

Yuri Kochiyama: Passion for Justice. Documentary. Directed by Rea Tajira and Pat Saunders. 1993.

  • Kochiyama appeared as herself in the TV movie Death of a Prophet — The Last Days of Malcolm X in 1981.
  • Kochiyama appeared in the 12 award winning documentary, "All Power to the People!" (1996), by Chinese-Jamaican-American filmmaker Lee Lew-Lee for ZDF-Arte, broadcast in 21 nations and the U.S. between 1996-2001
  • Kochiyama was the subject of the documentary film, Yuri Kochiyama: Passion for Justice (1999), from Japanese American filmmaker Rea Tajiri and African American filmmaker Pat Saunders.
  • Kochiyama and her husband, Bill Kochiyama, were featured in the documentary, My America...or Honk if You Love Buddha by the Academy Award-nominated filmmaker Renee Tajima-Peña.
  • Kochiyama is the subject of a documentary film with Angela Davis called Mountains That Take Wing[7] (2010) by C.A. Griffith & L.T. Quan.[7][8]
  • Kochiyama's speeches were published in Discover Your Mission: Selected Speeches & Writings of Yuri Kochiyama (1998), by Russell Muranaka.
  • Kochiyama is the subject of a play, Yuri and Malcolm X, by Japanese American playwright, Tim Toyama.
  • Kochiyama is the subject of the play Bits of Paradise by Marlan Warren (showcased at The Marsh Theater, San Francisco, 2008), as well as a documentary currently in production, Bits of Paradise: Missives of Hope which focuses on the letter-writing campaign led by Kochiyama during her internment (Producer: Marlan Warren).
  • Kochiyama is mentioned in the Blue Scholars' album Bayani on the title track and has a track titled in her honor in their 2011 album Cinemetropolis.

NPR Obituary -
New York Times obituary - 
Los Angeles Times obituary -   
Interview with Yuri Kochiyama -- 
Densho Encyclopedia - 
Black Past -  
Facebook Page - 
NPR story - Not Just a Black Thing - 
Wikipedia -