I had the joy and pleasure of knowing Dick Gregory both as a journalist and as a friend.
One of the greatest benefits of being a writer is you meet people who have a deep impact on your life.
Few people have reached in past the shields of personal space and were able to crack the hard shell of journalist objectiveness, but Dick Gregory could do that.
I met Mr. Gregory first as a journalist, but it only took a short time for him to become a friend.
He opened up to me and I found we shared a lot in common about telling it like it is and never backing down.
A Journalist Perspective
One of the most impressive things about Mr. Gregory to me was his love for his people. It was genuine. He was not a shallow man, nor was he ambitious type who tries to grandstand and build up his own name.
I remember him standing in Dallas, Texas arm in arm with then Rev. L. Charles Stovall, Texas Activist Ricky Jason and Martin Luther King III to raise awareness about the death penalty right in front of the courthouse downtown. He also was a fighter for young Black men serving time in jail and on death row.
He was not one who took protests to violent levels, like pushing, shoving or fighting with police. He had a special way of sharing that message and getting it across to people and the establishment.
He was not one to be loud or disrespectful in his presentation. He simply told the truth and force people to look in the mirror.
Speaking as a journalist who interviewed him more that a few times, Mr. Gregory knew how to draw you out of that comfort zone, make you ask the kind of questions he wanted that got his thoughts, views and points across to the general public.
Even though he was a comedian, I did not look at him as a funnyman. Dick Gregory was the real deal – a true wise man and philosopher on the level and order of Plato and Aristotle. He was the kind of soul that comes through and impacts lives with life giving truths and encouragement that lasts many lifetimes.
I enjoyed the privilege of being able to call him as a friend and had totally unfiltered access, whenever I needed an interview or just to talk or check in with him.
Even in my last interview recently, he did not stop sharing his concern for Black America and the people. Gregory was consistent in his message to African-Americans and remained concerned and offered cautious warnings about being too dependent on government and failing in our ability to stand up and be independent and fully united as a Black people.
He also reminded me that the “hating”, finger pointing and assigning blame to our problems as Black people is not an excuse for failure and remaining in the rut our people find ourselves in America today.
He said “We are the author of our problems and must be the creator of our solutions.”
According to Gregory, going back to basics means using common sense that leads to action – That is at the heart of turning things around in the community.
Before that discussion ended, he applauded my work and sincerity and loyalty to my craft, but Gregory reminded me of my responsibility to always be truthful, honest and to never misuse this responsibility as journalist.
A Personal Perspective
Gregory’s life is full of timeless words, quotes and phrases that never grow old.
Some of those words that have impacted my life personally include:
1.“One of the things I keep learning is that the secret of being happy is doing things for other people.”
There is nothing more important that helping your neighbor or bringing a smile to a stranger or someone you go out of your way to serve or make a difference in the lives of someone other that yourself. It is brightening the corner where you are. Gregory is right because I find that to be true as I lead two nursing home ministries across Houston.
2. “Love is man’s natural endowment, but he doesn’t know how to use it. He refuses to recognize the power of love because of his love of power.”
All of us have the capability of love and using that love to benefit mankind is our greatest calling and mission is life.
Absolute power corrupts absolutely and that is something we seem to be witnessing with the current leadership in Washington.
It is a shame that misguided and drunk on power leaders and power hungry media moguls are unraveling the Republic as we know it.
Dick Gregory is right on the need to use love in constructive ways to help build and advance relationships between one another.
Hope, faith and Love endures forever, but the greatest of all the powers mankind has at his disposal is Love.
Love is more powerful than nuclear weapons.
3. Laughter is the best way to release tensions and fears.
One thing we have to learn is the power of laughter. It can set the mood and improve the way we live our everyday lives and how we look at the decisions we make in life.
Mr. Gregory made me laugh at myself as a and as a person. He cast life in a way that forces you to see yourself and where you fit in the overall equation. His light-hearted wit opened my mind and caused me to explore and focus on what is really important in the big picture.
When I laugh, it helps me think more clearly and be more open to reasonable alternatives and solutions to situations I face on a daily basis.
It relieves tension. Thanks Mr. Gregory for helping me not take life so serious 24/7 and for helping me see the value of laughter and the lighter side of life.
We shall never forget the lesson of life you taught us. God Bless You and Rest in Peace.