By Hakim Abdul-Ali
Legendary civil rights activist and accomplished former entertainer Dick Gregory died on August 19, 2017. The news of his death caused a stone, cold pause in my thoughts generating immense reflective respect for this great teacher and iconic freedom fighter.
I have nothing but respect for him because Mr. Gregory, or more correctly as the Afro-conscious folks say, Elder Dick Gregory, was about educating the masses with so much optimum relevance until his void has already been felt. He was an extremely committed brother of oppressed people’s liberation.
Most elderly “colored” folk know of Dick Gregory as the pioneering comedian who broke all kinds of barriers in the comedic entertainment world during the 1960s. To say that he was a great and talented entertainer is merely touching the surface of his unquestioned comedic brilliance.
I’ll let others, in other formats, speak of those areas, along with his stupendous talents in recording and his occasional work in movies.
His impact upon me, though, was one of always being mindfully aware of the myriad of incoherent and conflicting lies that exists in the political system that governs us.
So, at this moment, I’ll address what I feel about Brother Dick Gregory, the late quintessential elder African-American griot, who told us of many truthful paramount insights that he hoped would open our eyes to the “real” agendas of governmental lies. His superlative ability to teach about clear truths and obvious myths existing in the nation’s colonial hypocrisies made him an enemy to all supremacists, racists and bigots.
This was especially true whenever he exposed all the corrupt political shenanigans that permeates our societal existences. This esteemed social critic, with few equals, never let the secret governmental forces that kept and still keeps many of us in the dark deter him from his mission of speaking truth to the needy. He was undaunted and intrepid.
My respect for Dick Gregory, the intimate thinker, in this effort, wasn’t because I agreed with all of his assertions and statements. No, because, truthfully in some instances, I didn’t. But my love for this unapologetic and indomitable activist was because he was an audacious researcher and an articulate spokesman, who knew both Malcolm X and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in their primes.
In my own developing years as a free thinker, Dick Gregory astonished me with different earth shattering facts on so many different occasions until I couldn’t wait to read his next book, buy his next album or hear his next lecture. This man, born in St. Louis, Missouri, who died at eighty-four-years of age, was one of the few consciously supreme orators in America who knew and could tell you facts from the bottom side up.
He did this with no fear of the Black, the Brown, the Yellow, the White and the Red alike among us, no matter whether they liked it or not. The thing that made him even greater in my thoughts is the amount of infinite quality of wisdom that he dispensed in the seventeen books that he either authored or co-authored.
The consummate thing about Brother Dick Gregory, the lecturer, was that whenever you objectively listened to him, you had to come away with knowledge about something that made you think. That was his inherent genius, and that’s what he made me do over the last fifty-plus years that I’d been checking this venerable genius out.
Elder Dick Gregory was deep as he preached, e.g., about what to eat or rapped about what some folk consider conspiracies. He never left you hanging whenever he talked about maintaining good health, and he also taught about the dilemmas of being misled by a colonial system that still enslaves people of color through perpetual bigotry and continual contrived ignorances that discriminations don’t exist in our country.
These were and are topics, among others, which bothered and caused some irritating feelings among some of today’s “Negroes” in the “colored” sectors of modernity’s Afro-Americana problems to this day because Mr. Gregory’s rhetoric was comprehensively icky. Dick Gregory was a bold liberation fighter in the true sense of the word.
If you’re Afro-Black conscious, and your age is beyond the hip-hop era’s limited mediums of understandings of many of today’s youthful populace, then you should know why the word “Negro” was used by me. You see, if you are a true liberated “our-storian,” and not a processed colonial “his-storian,” you know that Dick Gregory covered the waterfront of being a “Negro” from way back then to “the now” Black American, or whatever you label yourself as in today’s reality, in no uncertain terms.
I’m reflecting upon that as I relate to you that I was fortunate enough and used to hear Mr. Gregory speak live and in living truthful color in the early ’70s in New York City and New Jersey. He was a bold and unscripted visionary then and remained so until his recent death.
Somehow, he always seemed to challenge me to deliberate about things, a process I incorporate in my subliminal essayist styled thinking and writing traits to this very day. I, subliminally, owe a lot to Brother Dick Gregory, who I’d met personally in New Brunswick, New Jersey, back around 1970 or so, never forgetting the pearls of wisdom, the manifestations of truths and the reams of knowledge from everywhere he’s laid on me. I’m forever grateful.
This entrepreneur and nutritionist also seemed to have had an endless pipeline to informative things most people never knew about or suspected.
He was a flawless communicator, and that, to me, was another source of his engaging genius—you never knew where he was going to take you mentally as you traveled on his magical carpets of profound thoughts and indispensable wisdom.
Dick Gregory’s scholarly messages held substantial weight as I tried to absorb the depth of his foundations of truths. He was a giant among us, and he was a true teaching griot of African origin to the worlds of all oppressed peoples of the universe to learn from.
Elder Dick Gregory was my, your, our and their scholarly encyclopedia, a master tutor, who was unashamed to expose the lies of colonialism and exploitations that lie right under many oppressed “colored” folks’ inhibitions to being free. This man was on a mission to instruct the masses who needed to know the truth about some things beyond the dangerous commercial distractions and pseudo identities that afflicts so many of our processed indoctrinations and robotized mind-sets.
If the legacy and memory of Mr. Gregory means anything to you like it does to me, then just think about what I said in the aforementioned passage before you skip to the next paragraph.
Elder Dick Gregory would probably want me to say that to you as you read on because this man was an alert thinking activist, without equal, unlike many of the fake shammers that are in existence today. The truth must be told, and Dick Gregory told it like was and is.
He believed in the good of humanity, a a fact that’s become lost on most people as the Charlottesvilles, the Fergusons and the Charlestons become mere metaphors for the next urban outrage of shock and awe. Dick Gregory was a once in a lifetime scholar among us.
I’ll always remember him fondly for what he stood for. Rest In peace my elder. For today and always, that’s, “As I See It.”