King expected death, Dick Gregory tells Winston-Salem audience

King expected death, Dick Gregory tells Winston-Salem audience
January 29
00:00 2015

In photo: Dick Gregory speaks at Winston-Salem State University on Jan. 20. WSSU photo

Winston-Salem State University’s K. R. Williams Auditorium was filled with hundreds of people who were waiting to hear what the 82-year-old Richard Claxton “Dick” Gregory had to say about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Gregory told more than 1,400 that King knew he was going to die.

The social activist and comedian was the keynote speaker at the joint WSSU and Wake Forest University’s annual Dr. Martin Luther King Day event on Jan. 20.

The event, which was free and open to the public, included songs from WSSU’s Burke Singers and the Wake Forest University’s Gospel Choir.
Following those selections, attendees settled in their seats to listen to Gregory explain everything from his thoughts on the Bible, his reflection on Martin Luther King Jr. and what the youth can do to change the world. His lecture lasted just under an hour.

A viral video has been circulating around Facebook that shows Gregory lecturing and showing a minister claiming that he had to remember to “move out of the way so that he (the shooter) can get a good shot,” indicating that he knew King was going to be shot on April 4, 1968.
“Three weeks before he died, we were in Chicago. He said ‘They’re going to kill me. Aren’t they?’ and I said ‘Doc, they’re gonna kill us all. Come on, we’ve got a show to do,’” he said.

He went on to thank King for his service and said that he was grateful he “bumped into the movement.”

He also urged those residents who were students at WFU and WSSU during the Civil Rights Movement to make sure their efforts were acknowledged.

“Ya’ll need to organize and let the world know what you did here,” Gregory said.

Gregory often broke up the seriousness of his lecture with jokes, like saying his worst enemy was his mother lying to him.

“My mother told me that Santa Claus bought me these toys. A white man,” he said, pausing. “Everybody know ain’t no white man coming in the ghetto after midnight.”

Even through his humor the seriousness of the message hit home for WSSU student Rodie Lamb Jr. He had never seen Gregory perform, but had heard that he was great.

The junior said that he didn’t always know how to take Gregory’s mixture of jokes with substantive material.

“I didn’t know if I should laugh or be serious,” he said. “He was definitely straightforward and captured the audience’s attention immediately.”

He said that the part that caught his attention was when Gregory spoke about King.

“One of the portions that stood out for me the most was when he said that Dr. King knew he was going to die. I put myself in Dr. King’s shoes, asking myself would I be willing to die for what I believed in,” Lamb said. “To know that you’re about to die, that’s a very hard feeling to put into words.”

Gregory, being the social activist that he is, encouraged African-Americans to stand up for their rights.

“You ain’t never turned on the radio or read the newspaper where a white mother or father crying ‘cause some black cop has shot their white son in the back of the head 40 times. Is that because we are more spiritual? No. You know white folks aren’t going to tolerate it. It’s happening because we tolerate it,” he said.

He said that the best way for African-Americans to liberate themselves is to stop playing the economic game and boycott. He feels that cutting off America’s funds will cause the nation to step in and protect African-Americans.

“You know what we have to do to shut this down? All you have to do is call for a boycott on Thanksgiving and Christmas, but you not going to do that because you want your little children to have some toys, but those are the ones they’re killing,” he said. “Between 70 and 80 percent of retail in America happens between Thanksgiving and Christmas. We have the power to do it but we won’t because we’ve never been liberated.”

Lamb said that he was in awe to be in the room with someone who marched with King and that Gregory taught him to question the information given to him, especially when it came to King’s death.

“Not only did he challenge me to look at life beyond myself and what I think I know, he also challenged me to make sure those around me are good (taken care of),” Lamb said.

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Chanel Davis

Chanel Davis

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