DICK GREGORY PILGRIM IN SEARCH OF LIBERATION

From the Message Archives March April 1981 Issue:

Twenty years ago Dick Gregory was a stand-up comic on the nightclub circuit. By his own account he smoked and drank heavily. Gregory had an eye that saw through the games people and institutions play. He had a wit thatbroke up huge audiences while making them see truths about themselves. But that eye and that wit were teamed with a heart that was being led to the more important issues of life. Gregory’s priorities shifted. His concerns became oppression, manipulation, racism, and war. He discovered that the body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, and is not to be defiled. He became a prophet to the secular world about the evils of bodily abuse, particularly through diet. When Gregory yells Foul! about an oppressive institution or agency or group of people or life style, he doesn’t make a case like a lawyer with a long list of proofs. No, Gregory thinks analogically. He looks for parallels. He’s not hung up trying to prove cause and effect. If a window breaks each time a guy waves his arm, Gregory doesn’t have to see him throw the stone. But enough—Gregory can speak for himself.

MESSAGE: You say research indicating that the typical American diet has many harmful elements in it has not been made readily available to the masses. Instead, the interests of the rich and powerful are protected at almost any cost to the poor and the powerless. What does all this have to do with diet? And can you give us examples of manipulation of the masses?

GREGORY: You know, I do think much of the salvation of the planet is in diet. Another thing is how easy it is to get into it. You don’t have to change all of your eating habits. Here’s a little thing: just add bran to your diet in the morning and in the evening, and you can cancel out about 80 percent of the diseases in the lower digestive tract. And you know the way they got into that?

They got into Africa. They happened to meet this group of Africans whose systems were regular. They began checking and they found out that within 24 hours everything they had eaten had passed completely through their systems. From there it led to the roughage theory. This was already suspected, but for follow-up, researchers found some of this same group of Africans who had moved to Western society. This group was winding up with the same kinds of diseases as people in the West. So—when you cook string beans and take the strings off, your roughage is gone. The lesson for us: add some bran.

I usually tell people to go to a health-food store and get the pure bran. But it’s different in dealing with the masses, you know, because the minute you say that—”Go to the health food store”—it turns them off.” You mean you’re asking me to change my diet, and then what I’ve got to find is hidden somewhere? Plus, you know, I’m not all that upset bout the way I’m eatin’. I’m just trying this change out of respect and knowing where you’re coming from.” So I tell them to get bran or whole wheat cereal. Now I hate to send people to that commercial scene, but bran is bran. Some commercial preparations have sugar, but I’m saying that once they start on it, in about a two-week period, eating a bowl in the morning and a bowl in the evening will have a fantastic effect. I say eat a bowl of bran because people are not likely to believe it would only take a teaspoonful. They can’t see a teaspoon doin’ nothin’. They’d just say, “Later for the whole idea. I’ll just forget about it.”

MESSAGE: How did you start informing yourself on health issues?

GREGORY: I used to go to healthfood stores at first, or other places. I bought six or seven hundred dollars’ worth of books. I have researchers on my staff, and I use Harvard’s library. I also used my own common sense. I started asking myself, “If dead animals’ flesh is so good for you, why don’t cows eat it? If protein is so necessary in that form, why don’t the animals need it?” I began to realize you don’t have to eat hair to grow hair; you don’t have to eat fingernails to grow fingernails. If you put the right minerals and things into your body it will manufacture what you need. That’s the wonder of this body. When I was eating meat, the most I weighed was 134, but when I started a vegetarian diet I went to 288. This was from ignorance. I thought I needed a substitute, and that substitute was eating 5 or 6 times a day. But then I learned about fasting. In 1967 I went on my first 40-day fast, and I went from 288 to 95 pounds. My energy level was incredible, just so high!

Then I learned you must pray while fasting, and during my second fast, prayer made a difference. I’ve been trying to get people to fast from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday, and use that time to meditate and to pray that hungry people will be fed. But the important thing is the Government. They act as if they don’t have the research. The former Department of Health, Education and Welfare was really pushed with questions on why we don’t have serious research on vegetarianism. They said, “The only thing we have ever studied was from England.” But they have piles of it [research on vegetarianism]. There are piles of documents concerning what they have studied about your group [Seventh-day Adventists].

MESSAGE: In a sense you’re saying the Government is not making available the information it has. Is this what you mean by governmental manipulation and control?

GREGORY: We live in a country today that can ship tanks all the way around the world but cannot ship turnips to starving people. We have no business living on a planet where people are dying from starvation. There are enough folks with enough know-how to feed everybody. We are all born with certain God-given rights to drink water (clean water), the right to breathe air (fresh air), and the right to eat. And we’ve got to let people know that we are not dealing with any more trickery.

MESSAGE: Trickery?

GREGORY: Yes! Look at this Iran thing. The day I left Iran I bought this soft drink mix right in Iran. The boycott was on in Iran, yet I bought these grits—the same grits the President (former President Jimmy Carter) ate in the White House. I bought this Vaseline in Iran. Anything available in Iran before the boycott, I could still buy months later, and yet high anti-Iranian sentiment was developing even then. The Iranian people couldn’t understand it. They couldn’t understand how we were all so upset over the hostages’ being taken that we were jumping at everything Iranian, when they could go to the supermarket and find every American product they were ever able to find. It still must be emphasized that no one in his right mind—and no sane, honest people—could ever justify taking hostages, under any circumstances. But there are some circumstances. We need to know what led up to the hostage-taking so we can work to do the things in other countries that will prevent what happened in Iran. Look at this FBI thing, this Abscam. Eight Congressmen and one Senator. We should rise up and say, “Hey, how did you all choose them? What criteria did you use to pick all of them? And why has no one in the major press done a serious research job to find out what relationship these officials have with the FBI?”

Persistent rumors linking the CIA with the People’s Temple in Jonestown has been the subject of Congressional investigation, and I think we should really be concerned about the CIA, Jonestown, and mind-control drugs being tested. Because the next thing you know, they might be showing up in your hamburgers; they might be showing up in your breakfast cereal, and the next thing you know . ..! How are 900 people all going to commit suicide and neatly lie face down after drinking cyanide? There’s nothing on the planet that creates spasms and convulsions like cyanide. Then we were told that the dogs and the cats and the pets drank the grape too. You can’t get a
dog, even the dumbest dog you can find, to drink with anything in it, let alone cyanide—and there are
some dumb dogs.

Then there’s that P____! You know, they told F___ Motor Company that these gasoline tanks in the back were dangerous. If they were bumped from the rear the gas tank would explode, and with $14.00 we can
correct that. They said, “Wait a minute, let’s figure that up—$14.00 times . . . that will be 58 million dollars! Roll them like they are, because whatever lawsuit we get won’t cost us 58 million dollars.” Did you know that? It came out in a trial. And F___ Motor Company is still permitted to do business as usual. Not one person in F___ Motor Company has gone to jail. But I’ll bet if it had been some N who made such a car, and it was brought out in court that they knew it could kill you, they’d be lynched. But you ain’t gonna mess with nobody with no power that might mess with you back. That’s what the whole ball game is about. We all have got a big stake in this thing—in making this country, this planet, work right, because we’ve got no place to go; we’re stuck with this one. But don’t believe that a handful of crazies are going to tear this planet up. The same God that put this planet here will be the same God that will tear it up whenever He decides to tear it up, and that God does not need any of us to help Him do it.

MESSAGE: Seventh-day Adventists have been advocates of healthful living with attention called to the vegetarian diet since our early days. We’re interested in reaching the man on the street. What are your suggestions?

GREGORY: You have to exhibit it, and you have to leave leeway. It’s very important to leave leeway for the horror of coming through grade school, high school, and college. Mothers and Fathers—you know, the people that love us—never told us that meat was bad. It’s very difficult for a stranger to tell us, when we’re believing all the teachings of the people that love us. If you go around to a Black person’s house, and you don’t eat meat, they feel sorry for you. I mean, when I first turned vegetarian, it seemed to attract women. Women just wanted to be with me because they felt sorry for me. You know, “Oh, my soul, you don’t eat meat?” If you’d go to their houses, they’d pile your plate up. It was just the most incredible thing in the world. They never looked at it as a strength. Mothers are the same way. And then you get grandmothers trying to slip stuff to your children. The same things happened to ours [the Gregorys’ ten children]. I had started out with the candy. The kids were off candy. We would come into the house and we wouldn’t accept candy and cookies. “0 my soul,” folks would say, “Gregory is so mean.” But I think what has to happen is that we document on a very unsophisticated level that we don’t have to eat it. I think my next book will deal with the spiritual side of things.

Your material would need to go out on two levels. Write a column for the adult and then write a column for the child—something like coloring a page or a coloring book. The important thing is to get them introduced to what a carrot is …. You see, out of all the ways to commit suicide, even brutal ones, no one’s gonna drink iodine, because of the skull and crossbones. You’ve seen it as a child. That’s the level you have to work on. I tell you what would be interesting in your church, a study on the sexual temperament. That’s where Ghandi really got into his movements, you know. He was trying to cut back his sexual urge and control diet. I just wonder what it’s like for people who go without all the toxins in the body.

What is the strength of the family, and what is the temperament of the church, of your church? Are you losing? Are you having problems?

MESSAGE: What is your advice to our readers, mostly Black people in America?

GREGORY: Decide! Decide you’re going to have an integrity about your body. Decide you’re not going to put any soda pop, or beer, or reefers, or booze, or cocaine—none of that craziness—in your body. And see how good you feel. You may decide you want to feel that way all day. I’ve gone the whole route. I’ve been up to 288 pounds, smoked four packs of cigarettes a day, and drunk a fifth of Scotch every day and I can tell you there’s nothing in it. You’re playing a game on yourself. If you see the way we disrespect our bodies, then you can see why the people who manipulate us can get by with what they can get by with. I beg you to please, please, start checking out your food.

Some run around saying, “I’m into soul food, baby. Whitey can’t cook.” Whitey don’t want no soul food! Anybody can cook that old grease that we be cooking! But do you realize two out of every three Black folks in this country have a serious problem with high blood pressure, sugar diabetes, hypertension; and we’re sitting there eating all that old crazy stuff saying, “Yeah, man, I bet white folk can’t eat like this.” Any old fool can cook corn bread. White folk raised the hogs and the chickens, and you expect they can’t cook them if they wanted to? Anybody can cook a chicken. A chicken can cook itself!

When you go to the store, just play a game with yourself. Read the ingredients, and you’ll see five or six words you can’t even pronounce. Why eat it? What I’m fixin’ to do now is go 12 years with no sex, no talking, no eating solid food. I’m going the whole route to dramatize my protest against racism, against wars, and to gain moral power. I am calling for no war ever! If your son is 6 years old, and my son is 7 years old, when I come off of this thing they’ll be 18 or 19. At first people will laugh, but then every time they think about sex, they’ll think about me and this whole thing. There’ll be joking and laughing.—” Ha, ha, ha.” But then the jokes will stop.

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