On June 6, 2005, Equity’s, AFTRA's and SAG's Equal Employment Opportunity Committees worked together to sponsor the third annual Los Angeles-Area EEO Tri-Guild Diversity Awards, held at the East West Players. Among the honorees were E. Y. "Yip" Harburg (Equity) and Ossie Davis (Tri-Guild). The event was graciously hosted by Ed Begley and featured performances by Nita Whitaker and cast members from Imelda, a musical now enjoying its world premiere at East West.
A surprise 87th birthday present was given to long-time Committee member Ivy Bethune, in honor of her commitment to diversity and her years of service to all three performing unions. Henceforth, the Tri-Guild Awards will be known as the "Ivys."
At the ceremony, Nita Whitaker sang a slyly insinuating rendition of Harburg’s “Down With Love,” the perfect introduction to the man known as the Social Conscience of Broadway. Equity’s honoree, lyricist Harburg, was instrumental in creating roles for performers traditionally not then seen on a professional stage. He wrote Finian's Rainbow, Bloomer Girl, Jamaica, Flahooley and many other musicals, as well as songs for films such as The Wizard Of Oz and Gay Purr-Ee. Among his best-known songs are “Paper Moon,” “April in Paris,” “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime,” “Look to the Rainbow,” “How are Things in Glocca Morra” and his immortal tribute to a world that might be, “Over the Rainbow.” Mr. Harburg’s award was accepted by his daughter, Marge Harburg. She recalled the origin of Finian's Rainbow, a message musical about racism wrapped in a satiric gauze that propelled it to run over 700 performances on Broadway.
Later in the evening, Nita Whitaker returned to blow off the roof with her rendition of “I’ve Got Love” from Purlie, the musical based on the play Purlie Victorious, written by Ossie Davis and starring Mr. Davis and his wife, Ruby Dee. Honored by all three Guilds, Ossie Davis acted in, wrote and directed numerous plays and films, including Yip Harburg’s Jamaica, Cotton Comes to Harlem, Roots, Countdown at Kusini (the first American film shot entirely in Africa with black professionals) and No Way Out. Mr. Davis challenged racism through his work in the industry as an actor, writer and director; and devoted his energies to society as an activist in the Civil Rights Movement. Together, Mr. Davis and Ms. Dee are, among others, Kennedy Center, SAG Lifetime Achievement, and Equity Paul Robeson honorees. Accepting for the Davis household, Jeffrey Gunther Anderson told wonderful stories about his experiences working with Mr. Davis, and then noted the shared links between the honorees and their mutual commitment to justice and equality.
Nita Whitaker closed the evening by leading the audience in a singalong of Harburg’s “Over the Rainbow,” encouraging all of us to make those “dreams that you dare to dream” really come true.