Another one gone when we need people like him the most
A Brief Tribute from Doug Draper, NAL publisher
Posted August 20th, 2017 on Niagara At Large
“I never learned hate at home, or shame. I had to go to school for that.” – Dick Gregory
“In America, with all of its evils and faults, you can still reach through the forest and see the sun. But we don’t know whether that sun is rising or setting in our country.” – Dick Gregory
When they reported his death on CNN this August 20th, one of the hosts of early morning news program said; “I miss him already.”
He’s certainly not missed so much that CNN or any of the other corporate networks in Dick Gregory’s home country of the United States would have him on the air very much.
For a country that prides itself in free speech and in being ‘the world’s greatest democracy’, Dick Gregory appeared to be on a fairly long list of individuals and groups that, for as long as anyone can remember going back to Dick Cavett or (believe it or not) Merv Griffin, who would regularly book people like him as guests on their shows, have been conspicuously absent on the mainstream American networks.
Like Ralph Nader or Noam Chomsky, or the late Gore Vidal and Norman Mailer when they were still around during the years of Ronald Reagan, the two Bushes and closet the Wall Street Republicans Bill and Hillary Clinton, or like any one of a number of entertainers like the Dixie Chicks and Linda Ronstadt, after they refused to “shut up and sing,” as the likes of Trump toy girl Anne Coulter would have them do after they spoke out about the lies Bush/Cheney incorporated employed to drag their country into a ‘shock and awe’ invasion of Iraq, Dick Gregory was hardly ever seen on mainstream network news programs.
The was true of Bernie Sanders, to the extent that the major networks felt they could get away with reducing coverage of his massive grass root rallies during his 2016 run for the presidency, to 20-second sound bites.
Disturbingly enough, the same was not true for Donald Trump, whose race for the presidency received countless hours of coverage each day on networks like CNN and even the “more liberal” MSNBC, regardless of how disgustingly divisive, hateful and violence inciting what he said and did were and still are. Forget about any responsibility the major commercial networks have to providing viewers with informative, insightful coverage, or about being principled or speaking truth to power.
It was all about ratings, and apparently voices like Dick Gregory, who speak with intelligence and get to the core of how the vast majority of their fellow citizens are being shafted by the upper one or two per cent, are not good for ratings or for the network executives who swim in the same circles as the Kock brothers and other billionaires who are selling any semblance of democracy for all in the country down the drain.
Dick Gregory, who began his career as a stand-up comedian in the 1950s and was one of the first African Americans to break through the colour barrier in that line of work, died this August 19th at age 84.
Gregory also became an outspoken voice for civil rights, marching and going to jail with Martin Luther King in the 1960s, and publishing what would become a best-selling autobiography about his experience growing up black in America.
The book was called “Nigger” and in the sleeve of the book he says; “Hey Momma, the next time you hear the word ‘nigger’, they are advertising my book.”
It’s a book in which he pledges to join others in standing up and fighting to change a system of racial injustice and in which he also makes a promise to his mother that “when we’re through, there won’t be any niggers anymore.”
Sadly, from what was seen of some of Trump’s more ardent supporters – white supremacists, neo-Nazis and KKK members marching in the streets of Charlottesville, Virginia earlier this August, yelling hateful things about Muslims, Latinos, Jews and “niggers – that promise, as hard as people like Dick Gregory have dedicated their lives to fulfilling it – has yet to be realized.
As seriously as Gregory took his activism, he didn’t lose his sense of humour and would frequently inject a bit of comedy or satire into the messages he wanted to get across about the state of affairs for people of colour.
One of his more well-known narratives from the 1960s went like this –
“Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. I understand there are a good many Southerners in the room tonight. I know the South very well. I spent twenty years there one night…
“Last time I was down South I walked into this restaurant, and this white waitress came up to me and said: ‘We don’t serve colored people here.’
“I said: ‘That’s all right, I don’t eat colored people. Bring me a whole fried chicken.’
“About that time these three cousins come in, you know the ones I mean, Klu, Kluck, and Klan, and they say: ‘Boy, we’re givin’ you fair warnin’. Anything you do to that chicken, we’re gonna do to you.’ About then the waitress brought me my chicken. ‘Remember, boy, anything you do to that chicken, we’re gonna do to you.’ So I put down my knife and fork, and I picked up that chicken, and I kissed it.”
Years later, when the U.S. government issued a stamp in commemoration of the late Martin Luther King, Gregory said; “I am really enjoying the new Martin Luther King Jr. stamp – just think about all those white bigots licking the backside of a black man.”
On a more sober note, and there were many of those, he once said; “If all you can do is judge a person by their appearance, because you don’t have the spirit to judge someone from within, you’re in trouble.”
Dick Gregory was a hero of mine, just as he was for so many others, and he will be sorely missed in these troubled times.
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“A politician thinks of the next election. A leader thinks of the next generation.” – Bernie Sanders