Nora Davis Day and her sister, Dr. Hasna Muhammad, never seem to tire of talking about their famous parents, Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee.
They, along with brother, Guy Davis, have worked to live up to their iconic parents’ civil rights and philanthropic legacy.
This month, after a rigorous selection process, the family of the late actors and activists and UNCF (United Negro College Fund) announced that Lane College senior Jade Allen is the recipient of the Ossie Davis Legacy Scholarship.
“We are always motivated by mom and dad’s love of education and what a struggle it was for each of them to get higher education and the sacrifices that their parents made,” Davis Day said. “So when we’re reading all of these applications, I remember with Jade something just clicked, and we said yes, that [our] dad would want us to give her this $10,000.”
Muhammad concurred: “Both Nora and I are educators, and we’ve had the opportunity to deal with students in public and through to higher education. One of the things relative to choosing Jade for the scholarship is that we recognized the quality student in her, and we did so not only from the emotional component of trying to choose a candidate but as educators as well.”
The sisters said their parents weren’t much for naming anything after themselves, so it was not easy to put Ossie Davis’ name on the scholarship.
“But we know that they would want us to be part of making it possible for someone to get an education and to have money where they might not otherwise have been able to get it,” Davis Day said.
Allen, a communications major at Lane College, a historically Black institution in Jackson, Tennessee, is currently the highest-ranking senior in her graduating class and maintains a 3.9 GPA. In honor of what would have been Ossie Davis’ 100th birthday, Allen is acknowledged as the scholarship’s Centennial Scholar.
“It is an honor to receive it, I’m thrilled,” Allen said. “This does relieve any stress, and I can further my education in my chosen field without worrying about [money].”
Known as much for their activism as their award-winning stage and film careers, Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee were both named to the NAACP Image Awards Hall of Fame. They each were recipients of the Kennedy Center Honors and the National Medal of Arts.
Davis was inducted into the American Theater Hall of Fame and starred in films such as “The Joe Louis Story,” “Malcolm X” and “Dr. Doolittle.”
Dee was a Grammy, Emmy, Obie, and Drama Desk Award winner, who starred in such films as “The Jackie Robinson Story,” “A Raisin’ in the Sun” and “American Gangster,” the latter garnering her an Oscar nomination.
None of that history is lost on Allen, who has already completed her first film, “My Father’s Grass.” She said she plans to continue creating biopics that highlight a myriad of world cultures.
“With the scholarship, I’m in a good position to go back to studying filmmaking and understanding the technical aspects of it, and hopefully I can get my name out there,” Allen said.
Established by the Dee-Davis children, along with close friends of Ossie Davis, the scholarship has awarded four students with scholarships totaling over $60,000 since 2007.
“Each year we are amazed by the academic success displayed by the Ossie Davis Scholarship applicants, and we look forward to following Jade and prior recipients’ achievements throughout their college careers and beyond,” UNCF President and CEO Michael Lomax said in a news release. “Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee were torchbearers for truth, black culture, civil rights equality and the arts – among other causes. We are thankful the Davis family entrusts UNCF with awarding dynamic students year after year to fulfill their dreams of a college education.”
The merit-based scholarship is awarded to a deserving African American student currently enrolled at a select UNCF member institution. The student must be pursuing a degree in African American Studies, Communications, Education, Fine Arts, Humanities, Performing Arts, Political Science, Social Science, Theater Arts/Drama or Visual Arts.
“Now more than ever, it is imperative that young people of color arm themselves with the necessary tools to confront and combat many of the same social injustices and biases faced by our parents,” Muhammad said. “And we are humbled by the generous contributions to the Ossie Davis Endowment that makes this scholarship possible.
“The heart of the Ossie Davis Legacy Award is to ease financial barriers for that African American student who is on his or her path to higher learning,” she said.