Wednesday, March 31, 1999

Activist Gregory
doesn’t pull punches
at UH program

By Mary Adamski


A woman is beaten in a domestic violence case or raped every five seconds in America, a human rights activist told a University of Hawaii crowd.

But "if every five seconds a man was getting beat up by his wife or girlfriend, we wouldn't tolerate that. We'd call out the National Guard."

Dick Gregory, whose participation in social justice causes spans 30 years, spoke to about 300 people yesterday on "Race, Class and Minority Struggles" in a program sponsored by the UH African American Task Force and other campus organizations.

"Thank God we talk about racism," he said, working his way through a whole gamut of social ills, government malfunctions and conspiracy theories. "A peaceful planet won't happen without people talking about it."

Gregory had the audience roaring with laughter as he punched out commentary in the style that brought him to such popularity in the early 1960s that he was the first black comedian to work in the white nightclub circuit.

He joined Martin Luther King Jr. in 1960s civil-rights marches, and the 1995 Million Man March on Washington, D.C. In 1967 he fasted for 40 days to protest the Vietnam War and he has embarked on fasts 100 times since to dramatize injustices. He is the author of several books and host of a Washington, D.C., radio talk show.

"Nobody in the history of the planet made the progress black people have made in the past 30 years," he said, but he struck chords in the crowd about inequities still faced by welfare mothers less able to get jobs than white women, sports heroes who are making the fortunes of the "white moneymen."

Gregory has been involved in American Indian causes and he told the audience that "scalping redskins" was the creation of the U.S. government, which paid a bounty for Indian scalps. "How can we tolerate a team in our nation's capital (Washington Redskins) named after something that horrible?"

He indicted "blacks, Hispanics, Asians, Hawaiians ... for having more fear of our enemy than love for our children. When will we stop tolerating a cop shooting us in the back?"

He tweaked Christians who mark Holy Week -- "Jesus was killed by the state" -- but don't take a stand against capital punishment.

The U.S. government was his favorite target. "They can rescue that pilot (whose fighter plane was downed this week in Yugoslavia) but they can't get the white boy who bombed four abortion clinics.

"It was racism, then sexism, now it's terrorism ... it's the 'isms' they use to control us."

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