Alicia Keys, Phylicia Rashad and actress Tyne Daly were among the celebrities who helped to celebrate the life of late screen icon Ruby Dee at a special memorial service on Saturday.
Guests gathered at the Riverside Church in New York to salute the actress and civil rights activist in a three-hour ceremony, which featured performances from jazz trumpeter Wynton Marsalis, Peter, Paul and Mary star Peter Yarrow and pregnant Keys, who sang her “Superwoman” hit for the crowd.
Daly joined fellow actresses, including Kim Fields, Pauletta Washington, Lynn Whitfield and S. Epatha Merkerson, to read passages of Dee’s poetry and prose, while the veteran entertainer’s A Raisin in the Sun co-star Glynn Turman paid tribute to Dee, saying, “I feel honored to have known Ruby Dee, but I feel so very blessed that she knew me.”
There was also a message from President Barack Obama and his wife Michelle, who praised the Jungle Fever star for her “extraordinary life” and for “throwing open the doors of opportunity”, while Belafonte delivered a eulogy on video and Sidney Poitier remembered Dee as “an artist, the likes of which I have never seen” in a letter read out during the service.
Actress Angela Bassett and Broadway star Audra McDonald were notably absent from the previously announced line-up after having to pull out of the ceremony at late notice.
Dee died in June at the age of 91.