Kat’s Korner: Dick Gregory Spoke (RECAP)

Kat’s Korner: Dick Gregory Spoke (RECAP)

Post-event glow. I was so excited to take this picture with an icon.

Post-event glow. Dick Gregory and Risikat “Kat” Okedeyi

On Wednesday, February 26th, Prince George’s Community College Book Bridge Project hosted “An Intimate Evening with Dick Gregory” as part of the Legacy Lecture Series. Dr. Korey Brown, Associate Professor of History moderated what inevitably became a conversational lecture with civil rights icon Dick Gregory. In a word, Dick Gregory is energy. Even in his eighties, Mr. Gregory remains an outspoken champion for social justice and civil rights. He also has a great deal to say on the matter and the stamina to speak with sustained intensity.

In reflecting on his early years, Mr. Gregory shared the difficulties of being one of few Black students at Southern Illinois University. The persistent institutional and overt racism finally pushed him to make a decision. With only a month left before graduating, Gregory dropped out of school because, “[He] didn’t want his knowledge validated by a racist institution.” Statements like this sent ripples through the audience that often responded with punctuated sounds of approval and more than a few ‘Amens’.  At times hard to see the connection to the questions posed, Mr. Gregory’s roundabout methods of question answering were always filled with imagery and wisdom.

Mr. Gregory spoke up against the disparaging of the Black church by reminding the audience that the Black church was traditionally the  protector of Black people. He also spoke of the misguided priorities of owning a “$275 pair of Nikes”. In speaking to this end Mr. Gregory stated, “Who you give your money to is who you give your power to.” He touched on the Washington Redskins and  the support some Blacks have for the team name. After explaining the history of  the “cash for Indian heads” initiative used  by colonists to take land from Indigenous Americans and the subsequent payment for scalps instead, Mr. Gregory bellowed, “But y’all don’t care about your Indian brothers and sisters.” He touched on several things throughout the night, making hard for the brave moderator Dr. Brown to get a word in edge-wise, but one of the most consistent themes was the power and the importance of Black women to the survival of the Black community.

In a time where Black women are constantly under attack for one thing or another, it was not only refreshing, but empowering to hear Mr. Gregory extol the virtues of Black womanhood. Married for 54 years, Mr. Gregory attributed his longevity to wife Lillian and the importance of not accepting watered down versions of Black female power and beauty. A revolutionary to his core, Mr, Gregory chastised and encouraged the audience to support its youth through positive and self-esteem building measures.

By the end of the almost two two-hour conversation, Mr. Gregory took questions from the audience that varied in content from conspiracy theories a la former Commerce Secretary, Ron Brown to life questions like a young female student who wondered if , the ‘thirst for something more’ which had already taken her from a major university back to a local community college was the same ‘thirst’ Mr. Gregory experienced when he decided to become an activist. His answer: “Meditate and listen to the universal God. just listen. You are on the right path.” In a way, being in the room on that very special night mirrored that sentiment and by the time Mr. Gregory was safely on his way home, it felt like for just a few hours we had all been there together – on the same path.

Kat

2 Comments
  • Jennifer Powe
    Posted at 07:46h, 07 March

    Thank you so much for this commentary. I so wanted to be there to hear/see Mr Gregory. Your words have filled me in and quite adequately so. He is truly a Pioneer of Our People and a Wise Old Sage.

    • Kat
      Posted at 17:32h, 11 March

      We love that you enjoyed the recap. Mr. Gregory was a sight to behold.

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