Sunday, October 31, 2010

Dick Gregory and the Rally for Sanity

Published: The Huffington Post 10/31/2010

The Stewart/Colbert Concert was great! The people in the crowd were as awesome as the acts on stage. How much fun it was to do the wave for an actual purpose! A very clever way to figure out how many people were in the crowd?

As I heard The O'Jays, I was worried that when Love Train was playing the circling helicopters were going to start dropping cans of Coors Light -- WKRP-style. Did anyone else notice the cross in the sky formed by the vapor trails of 2 airplanes minutes after Father Guido Sarducci? (I'll let a Pastor buddy of mine know next week...)

My vantage point was at the Coffee Party's Sign the Constitution display (CNN iReport Link). I was the idiot with the long beard and retro-Phillies cap hawking the Constitution:

If you sign the Constitutional today - you can get
  • Freedom of Speech,
  • Religion, and the
  • Right to peaceably assemble cars in Georgia and Tennessee!

Wait -- wait there's more!!! We'll even throw in protection from unreasonable search and seizure!

Ladies - would you like some Suffrage? Come on over and sign up!

What that's not enough - we're even repealing Prohibition today - just for you.

Often imitated, never duplicated! Come sign today. No credit card needed,

This is your birthright!
We promise not to phone slam you.

A really cool thing about being in DC this weekend was meeting other Huffington Post posters and those really involved with the Coffee Party. All were bright, intelligent, and a lot of fun.

Glad that my mom and aunt drove down for the day. My 17-year-old son really grew up a lot yesterday as he got to the 12th row with his crew. He went down with his buddies, and I think we just passed a parenting milestone when they all got back OK. I saw one of my nieces with her Penn State posse.

The most important thing I experienced was something happenstance. Somehow some new friends and I ended up at Busboys and Poets. It seemed to have the psyche of a 50's beatnik outfit. On stage were Van Jones (link) and Amy Goodman from Democracy Now (link). They were doing a dog-and-pony before signing their new books. We were seated as their segment was winding down. Then this guy who looked like Grady from Sanford and Son was up on stage with them. I couldn't hear at first then I realized, it was Dick Gregory. I flipped.

Some 20-somethings at the next table gave me the eye, I went over and explained who that guy was up there. Dick Gregory is a giant in the world of comedy. His weapon of choice was a keen eye for the current state of affairs and questioning all social conventions. Gregory and Mort Sahl are comedic bookends. Both use the current political environment and the news to make us laugh and think. Gregory is contemporary of Bill Cosby.

Dick Gregory is a leader in the Civil Rights movement! I read his autobiography over 30 years ago (Up from Nigger -- and yes it should be required reading with that title for every school kid in the country). I can still recall how he broke the corporate will of companies that refused to serve African Americans.

He bought stock in the parent companies of the offending hotel or restaurant. When he would be challenged for service, he would say, "Would you refuse service to the owner of this establishment if he came in?"

Naturally, the staff person would say of course not. At that point Gregory would produce the stock document and essentially say, "Well, it would seem that I own the place, serve me."

I listened to what the man had to say. He also spoke about comparisons to the present with the Great Depression and was having nothing of it.

I will do my best to quote, but the essence of his message was not an echo from the day's rally, but the Doppler Effect that preceded 90% of the people in the room and the Stewart/Colbert Rally.

There will be an election Tuesday. Your people may not win this election. But the people do win are also Americans. They are us. They talk like we do -- act like we do. They are Americans. We are all Americans.

I did mention I am an idiot in this piece. When he stepped down from the stage I got up and shook this man's hand. He was very gracious as I told him what a hero he was to me. The 3 hour drive home in the middle of the night went by in a jazzed flash as I thought about the things this man has done. I don't agree with everything he says or does. But I stand in awe of his ability and humor as he defends all of us as members of the human race.

This man is the funny, human philosophical grandfather of Jon Stewart and Steven Colbert. Please look this guy up online and see what he is about.

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