Civil rights activist, author and comedian Dick Gregory, 76, recently announced that he will not eat solid food until the downward spiral of the economy comes to an end. It’s his way of drawing attention to the millions of people who are currently out of work, struggling to feed their families, and suddenly facing a very bleek future. Unemployment rates are rising in major cities across the country where now 12,467,000 are already out of work, according to the Department of Labor. Gregory is adamant in bringing attention to their plight and letting folks know that there is someone out there who truly cares. Here, he explains why he’s taken on this cause in this way, and why he believes this crisis demands the attention of all Americans.
Editor’s note: The opinions expressed are solely those of activist Dick Gregory.
I do about 200 shows a year, and as I travel around the country, I’m starting to see how frightened folks have become. Everyone thinks that our economic problems started last September. But I’ve been talking to White folks whose children have graduated from college and have been living with them for the last two years. Suddenly this is now a problem because Middle class Americans are panicking, but for us, this is the way things have always been. We are immune to a lot of the craziness that they’re going through for the first time. I see it all over the country. You have this whole array of folks who are well-educated, had everything they wanted and now that’s all over.
I am very concerned. So, I decided I’m going to do four days of liquids with fresh juices, two days with just water and one day of nothing but meditation until our economy changes. The last time I did this was to protest the war in Vietnam. I didn’t know the war was going to happen for two years. I was like, just say you won so I can eat! When that war was over, I weighed 92 pounds. I’m not concerned about myself. I have ten children and eleven grandchildren. I’m more concerned about what’s going to happen to them and our country. We are looking at this like it’s business as usual but it’s not. Once this spins out of hand, the whole country could come down in a weekend.
What I would like to see is for President Obama to allow $1 million worth of beans and rice to every police station and fire station in the country so people won’t have to be reduced to stealing to eat. We’re spending so much time talking about budgets, yet if North Korea threatened to blast us with a nuclear bomb, nobody would be talking about the budget. We would mobilize and send fleets over there. So, how is it that nobody cares when the crisis is about hungry children and the homeless?
Will President Obama be able to change this? Well, the problem is going to be the last person standing with the gun is the person they blame for the crime. You don’t hear people talking about how President Obama inherited this. To put this stimulus act in place, it will take at least 18 months but we don’t have that kind of time. By the end of this year, I see riots breaking out in the streets. But here’s the difference: when a riot breaks out in the ghetto, the National Guard starts shooting Black folks. When other people start rioting, they’re not going to start shooting. They will throw their guns down first.
I’ve never seen this type of fear since the days of the Civil Rights Movement, except this time it’s all Americans who are scared of what’s happening. There is chaos heading and nobody’s dealing with it. If I was President, I would give half my salary back. Think of what would happen to the morale of those who have no jobs. I would encourage the Senate and Congress to agree that twice a year they’ll get their checks two weeks late. I guarantee that’s going to make people feel like, wow, somebody there actually feels my pain.