A few months after Hurricane Katrina destroyed New Orleans, Ruby Dee came to Congo Square to tell us motley returnees that she understood Congo Square was some of the most sacred ground in America. She was also gracious enough to extend Congo Square to all of New Orleans. This was shortly after the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives voiced what too many smug, soulless ideologes had been saying privately, "New Orleans should be abandoned."
Ruby knew what these comments represented and so did we. The negative (and positive!) responses to Katrina mirrored what Congo Square means to America. Historically, Congo Square was the rare space where African-American culture could exist without sanction. A place where forbidden music and culture flourished. Then and now, Congo Square and New Orleans is a place where "different" is respected. The frontline of where democracy pushes back at soulless authoritarianism.
As she did all her life, Ruby Dee spoke truth to power and I'll always be thankful that she stuck up for me (and us) when I had just a small taste of what it's like to not have skin pigmentation privileges.
Thank you Ruby Dee.
1922 - 2014