Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Davis Warns UNF of Global Divide on Class Issue Race Less an Issue Than Economics

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Davis Warns UNF of Global Divide on Class Issue Race Less an Issue Than Economics

Article excerpt

Byline: Joe Humphrey, Times-Union staff writer

African-Americans may be free, but they're a long way from equal, Ossie Davis told 300-plus people yesterday at the University of North Florida.

Davis, 84, an actor, writer, producer and activist, headlined UNF's 21st annual Martin Luther King Jr. scholarship luncheon. In a 40-minute address, the versatile Davis -- who eulogized both King and Malcolm X -- warned that America must overcome a new struggle.

Having already made strides toward erasing the color barrier, Americans now are challenged by a growing divide between the haves and the have-nots, he said. Americans must overcome this class struggle.

"However the world pulls us apart, we must pull ourselves back together," he said. "That's what Martin would want us to do, and that's what we have to do."

Davis described it as a global problem. He said the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks showed how some people reach a point when they say, "I'll kill myself as long as I know, in killing myself, I'll kill you, too."

Others may take a similar path, unless something is done to close the schism, Davis said.

"The time is coming when the have-nots will lose faith and patience," he said.

Davis lectured without notes, offering commentary and quoting the work of poet Langston Hughes. "I wish the rent was heaven sent," Davis proclaimed, citing in its entirety one of Hughes' best-known works.

"You don't have to go get a dictionary to figure out what he was saying," Davis said.

Davis gained much of his notoriety as a writer. The Georgia native recently published a memoir with his wife, actress Ruby Dee, on their 50 years of marriage.

"I recommend it," he told the audience, pausing for laughter. "Some of it's true."

His play Purlie Victorious satirized segregation and later was made into a movie. In a pre-speech interview, Davis said he now is focusing almost entirely on writing, which he called the most significant contribution he has made. …

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