When I learned that Brother Dick Gregory had transitioned to be with the ancestors, I was saddened as I had hours earlier received a notification from The Shrine of the Black Madonna in Houston, TX, that he was coming to town.
Although I could consider Gregory’s demise weeks prior to attending one of his lecture’s, that blow is softened significantly by an earlier interaction that I had with the Civil Rights figure. The opportunity that I am alluding to, a luncheon with Dick Gregory, is attributable to my status as an African-American studies Professor on a collegiate campus.
Anyone who has attended such an event will tell you that the criterion for being invited has little to do with an individual’s understanding of the invited guest’s significance and everything to do with one’s importance within the university hierarchy. Trust me when I tell you that few, if any, of those assembled, had anything beyond a superficial idea of who Gregory was.
Their ignorance turned into an unexpected opportunity for me as their ignorance translated into a one-on-one conversation with Dick Gregory that lasted several hours. This cherished opportunity paved the way for a hilarious monologue that vacillated between the poignant and the absurd.
The organizer of this event immediately recognized that those assembled had no idea who Dick Gregory was or his importance to the movement and decided to make the best of the situation by walking him over to my table and literally parked him next to me. As expected, the moment that Gregory settled into the seat next to me he began what could only be referred to as a one-man comedic monologue that was peppered with historical figures, references, and events.
“I don’t eat outside food. You do know that food is a classic way that the FBI and CIA have been able to take out black leaders. But you go ahead and eat up!!!!”
Although this initial salvo straddled the line between observant and offensive, it was classic Gregory. However, I was a bit surprised that Dick Gregory still considered himself a notable threat to the U.S. Government. Although I did not verbally express my immediate thought that “Man, you aren’t a threat to the system anymore,” it was obvious that Gregory was convinced of his importance.
Although I did not verbally express my doubt and skepticism, Dick Gregory’s next comment led me to believe that he had read my countenance of skepticism.
“Ah yeah young brother, they are still on me. When I got to the airport, the brother working at the metal detector told me, ‘They (FBI Agents) are on you today brother. There’s going to be four FBI agents on the plan with you.’ I’m telling you I can’t go anywhere without them following. Look around right here, I would bet you that a few of these people serving the food or working at this venue are “new hires.” As a person who shuns conspiracy theories with all of their might, I did not know if I should take Gregory’s salacious allegations seriously or burst out laughing at the ridiculous assertion that he was being pursued by a modern-day Counter Intelligence Program.
Over the next few hours, I listened to Brother Gregory weave a series of conspiracy tales that ranged from the assassination of Malcolm X to gentrification. In time, it became obvious that Gregory may have believed the things that he was saying; however, I thought he simply enjoyed the reaction that those listening to his conspiracy tales provided. Having listened to Gregory for years, I knew that each of his salacious allegations held a morsel of truth, however, when taken in their totality they were largely unbelievable; nevertheless, they were Gregory’s hallmark. And who doesn’t love a great story, and Gregory was one of our most entertaining story tellers that we have ever had. So I salute this brother and hope that he rests well among the ancestors; I am quite certain that upon arrival, Brother Gregory began weaving tales explaining all that has occurred in America to Malcolm, Martin, Marcus, and whoever else is willing to listen.
Rest well Brother Gregory, Rest in Power.
Dr. James Thomas Jones III