World-renowned civil rights activist, author and comic Dick Gregory delivered a rousing speech for Constitution Day in the Assembly Center today. The satirist’s no-nonsense statements left few issues unaddressed.
He touched on everything from Americans and addiction culture, to becoming lovable for one’s spouse, the importance of HBCUs, combating pollution and remembering pre-colonial African history.
Black people’s histories did not start with picking cotton, Gregory said.
He reminded listeners that ancient Africans understood astronomy and mathematics to build pyramids. Ancients had wisdom.
“We didn’t just start getting smart,” Gregory said, of African descent people, although the media invests in alternate portrayals of them.
“If they could grade wisdom, they could build a pyramid.”
Gregory emphasized the difference between what people traditionally accept as “smart” (able to be graded) and understanding the universe.
His delivery had a crescendo effect.
He employed wit and put the audience at ease with countless chuckles before offering critical social commentary.
To combat sexism, he encouraged women to find their voices.
“Don’t sit quietly like your mamas and grandmamas.”
He added that too often people ask him if he participated in the Civil Rights movement to ensure a Black president someday.
Gregory refuted the claim and added that human rights were about securing certain protections “for the least of us,” not ensuring token slots for some Blacks.
The author continued his critiques by reminding African-American Christians of their contradictions.
One such issue is that of corporal punishment.
“The state killed Jesus,” he said, before adding that drunken chariot drivers did not murder their savior.
Overall, Gregory encouraged young people to not wallow in problems or fret about receiving blame for modern problems. He added that the 21st century was the most corrupt in history.
“We left you a mess to clean up,” he said, but he also spoke about the power of nonviolence and creating ways to meet people’s basic needs.
One such need is to be understood.
Stop judging people from without and begin judging from within, Gregory said.