Through the 1960s, Gregory fought on the front lines of the civil rights movement, leading countless protests supporting voting rights, equality, and integration. "I will go to jail so you don't have to," Gregory said, regarding his mission. He's been on over 60 hunger strikes to achieve his goals, once dropping to 97 pounds in Iran, in an attempt to convince the Ayatollah Khomeini to release American Embassy hostages.
In 1968, Gregory ran for President against Hubert Humphrey and Richard Nixon. Receiving 1.5 million votes, he was blamed for "stealing" black votes and costing Humphrey the election. After the Kennedy, Malcom X, and Martin Luther King Jr. assassinations, Gregory became immersed in various conspiracy theories. He is a bestselling author and recording artist. At 70, Gregory continues his life's work while battling cancer. Later this month, he will be honored at the U.S. Comedy Arts Festival with a Lifetime Freedom of Speech Award.
Gregory lectured in Portland February 16, following a book signing at Reflections Coffee & Books. "It's nice to be here in the always sunny world of Portland, Oregon," he told a predominately black audience. What follows are a few more comments from the man who always has something interesting to say.
MIXIN' IT UP: "NATURE'S INSISTENCE ON QUALITY"
"It's integration that has really brought the Western world down to its knees. With integration, you can't lie on me to white children. You can't tell them I've got a tail, because they're in school with me. You can't tell them my dick hangs down to the ground, because they're in the shower with me. The old lies don't work. It's moved to another level."
WHO LET THE DOGS OUT?
"They take a black man, a multi-millionaire, and nobody will see the smoke screen, and he'll call himself, not one dog, but two dogs. Snoop Doggie Dogg! And black folks, y'all think you're all so slick and so hip and so far ahead of white folks man, you're behind them! Your little slick-ass self slick? This ain't nothing about slick. Let the Klan refer to the black man as a dog! And after he becomes a dog, all of a sudden we start referring to the sister as a bitch. So we've got a he-dog and she-dog, and they have a baby called Lil' Bow Wow."
STILL CONSIDERS HIMSELF A COMEDIAN?
"Always. But I answer to a lot of names. Millionaire (laughs). One day be Billionaire, Trillionaire. Father, Husband...that's a little shady though. I've been married 43 years, but that has nothing to do with love. She just says, 'Nigger, if you ever leave, I'll kill you.' Kill will make you stay home a long time. And there's another word that Michael Jordan just found out that will make you stay home too, called half. Half will make you run back home."
CONDOMS CAUSE AIDS
"The Center for Disease control put out a health advisory saying that (condom lubricant) Nonoxynol-9--which had been claimed to help prevent the spread of HIV and AIDS--now causes it. This was a year ago this past November. You can go to a drug store today and buy condoms with Nonoxynol-9 in them."
FEAR FACTOR: THE HOME WAR
"America can't survive as long as the American people stay frightened. September 11. Six days after that, church attendance went up about 18%. About a month and a half after that, church attendance leveled off, but drug addiction and alcohol addiction had gone up further than it was before. What does that mean? It means battered women, more child abuse. You're going to see more drunken driving. Any time the mightiest nation on the planet is spending a billion dollars a day to bomb a nation that don't even have an electric toaster, then I wonder who we're praying to. Fear alone will destroy this nation. If a building blew up here in this town tonight, the first thing people all over America would wonder is if it was terrorism. When a whole nation gets that afraid, it can't survive."
ANOTHER PRESIDENTIAL RUN?
"I don't think so. If I ran for president again and I won, I'd ask for a recount."
ON CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE
"There was a time when I was afraid. I look back now and say, 'Thank God I went anyway.' I thought I'd be killed in the civil rights movement being restrained by the cops who tell you, 'When the march starts, we're going to kill you all.' You knew they meant it.
"I was in Birmingham when they turned on the hoses. I saw something pass by me. I didn't know what it was. It was a four-year-old child caught in the strip of water. I saw this nun, and then a priest, an old black minister, an old black woman. Before I could get an attitude, the line was still marching, singing "We Shall Overcome." There are a lot of black folks who don't know the power of that movement, but there's some redneck nigger-hating white folks that understand it. Never before in the history of this planet, has anybody made the progress in a 30-year period that African Americans have made in America, in spite of black folks and white folks lying to one another."
SHOOT THE WHITES FOR THEIR SINS?
"That's bullshit talk. I don't even deal with questions like that. That's a game. That's jacking off your ego. A black cop has never shot a white boy in the back of the head. Why? Because white folks aren't going to tolerate it. There are thousands of black cops in America. When was the last time you picked up the paper and saw some white person complain that some nigger shot their child in the back of the head? NEVER! Is that because black cops are more spiritual or better trained? No! It's because white folks aren't going to tolerate it! It's that simple. They don't go into a white boy's house after dark with a search warrant. They'll come in your house. They'll come in and arrest every one of us in here, and you niggers be mumblin' and grumblin', and they'll be in trouble tomorrow, but they'll do it tonight. When you stop tolerating it, it stops.
"Understand one thing. There are some white folks that will DIE for us tonight. But don't bring me that one, because we know there are ten thousand niggers that will blow your ass away."