Ruby Dee, Imagination and History

“Live out your imagination, not your history.”
– Steven Covey

"For Colored Girls" New York Premiere - Outside ArrivalsLike so many others, Ruby Dee has been on my mind all day. She was a woman of great courage, commitment, intelligence and beauty – all of which she used to live out her imagination and thwart history.

In an interview with NPR she said that as a child, she didn’t know any black screen idols,

“It occurred to me that I was not white,” she said. “It occurred to me that being what they call ‘colored,’ being a Negro, was some kind of a disadvantage.”

Yet she dared to live out her imagination – and then some. In a scene from my novel, Provenance, one of my characters says in frustration,

“We are so used to people of color being and doing what other folks say we’re supposed to, that sometimes we can’t see what’s possible. Carrying around the expectations of others is such an unnecessary burden.”

In Provenance, my characters struggle with the same history of racism that has prescribed the lives of black folks for generations. Racism could have deprived us of Ruby Dee’s radiance – thank God her imagination enabled her to see what was possible. Living out your imagination, not your history is what Miss Ruby Dee did. It is how I try to live my life and, it is what my book, Provenance, is about.

(Thank you @AshiLabouisse for tweeting the Stephen Covey quote today.)



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