“Once I accept injustice; I become injustice. For example, paper mills give off a terrible stench. But the people who work there, don’t smell it. Remember, Dr. King was assassinated when he went to work for garbage collectors. To help them as workers to enforce their rights. They couldn’t smell the stench of the garbage all around them anymore. They were used to it. They would eat their lunch out of a brown bag sitting on the garbage truck.
One day, a worker was sitting inside the back of the truck on top of the garbage, and got crushed to death because no one knew he was there.” Richard ‘Dick’ Gregory, born in 1932 in St. Louis, is that Black “voice crying out in the Wilderness” that is so very difficult to determine at what point in American History you can truthfully say, ‘I hear you’. His 2nd year at Southern Illinois University, his Mother passed. He walked away from his Track Scholarship and was drafted into the Army where his
gift of Comedy came through. He did the ‘club’ ownership and Comedy performance until Hugh Hefner opened to him the door of the Chicago Playboy Club. He initially refused his First Television performance, on the “Tonight Starring Jack Paar” show learning that black performers were not allowed to sit down and chat with Paar on his famous couch. Jack Paar called back. Gregory says that as the ‘first black to sit on that couch’, his salary jumped from $1,500 a year to $3.5 million. “That was the power of sitting on that couch.”
By 1963, I was in Elementary School when Gregory received a call from Medgar Evers to be the Speaker for a Voter Education Event. After Evers’ murder, Dick Gregory gave up performing full-time, taking his place in the Civil Rights movement. He flew to Moscow to protest Soviet treatment of black soldiers in 1964 and the same year published his Autobiography, “Nigger”, which has sold over 7 million copies and counting.
When did I hear? In 1981 I saw him on television talking about a ‘fast’. It was my year of graduation from Seminary so my consciousness was tuned.
“The longest medically supervised scientific fast in the history of the planet” when he lived on a gallon of water and prayer for 70 days at Dillard University’s Hospital. Following by News Reports, I now realized this man to be real, really serious. Fast forward to the 2013 50th Anniversary March On Washington. I was sight walking the blocks around the Hotel, and walked towards three men of various age, the one in the center was Dick Gregory. He was looking at me while I was looking at him and as our paths crossed he extended his hand, “Mr. Gregory”, I said. “And you are?” He said. With nothing substantial of him except ‘The Fast”, I made my way to Zanies Comedy Club last year to tune in to Dick Gregory. After holding us spellbound for two hours… “I hear you!”
This past week, on February 2, Richard Gregory received the Hollywood Walk of Fame Star. But, it is not the 12 movies in which he has had roles; or the 15 Comedy Albums he has recorded; or the 14 Books that he has written that makes him the very present “voice crying out in the Wilderness”. But, ‘The Truth” that he walks in, proclaiming that “the God of the Universe and fear does not exist in the same space.” … I hear you!
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