Legendary comedian Dick Gregory says he’s never lied about race. Friday night’s gala celebrating the Harlem Renaissance Festival was no time to start, as Gregory told one zinger after the other before a crowd of who’s who in Prince George’s County.
“I was convinced all white folks thought all black folks looked alike, until Obama got into the White House,” Gregory said. “But nobody has walked up to me and said, ‘Excuse me, Mr. President.’ ”
The crowd seated for dinner in the Prince George’s Ballroom in Landover burst into laughter. The comedian and vegan social activist, who is known for advocating healthy eating for African Americans, told the crowd: A television reporter recently asked him: “‘You’ve been fasting 40 years, what does you doctor think about that?’ I said, ‘My doctor has been dead 30 years.’” More laughter.
For more than an hour, Gregory held court on race, history and economics, empathizing with people who are struggling financially. “My brother Greg asked me, ‘What do you think about all these people in foreclosure?’ I said, ‘Hell, they took my house when times were good.’…. My wife couldn’t handle debt. I told her, ‘Sears and Roebuck knew I wasn’t going to pay for that stuff when I got it.’… One night, I walked in the house and the wife was upset. She said, ‘Here’s a final notice from Sears & Roebuck.’ ‘Final notice?’ I said. ‘Good, that means we won’t be hearing from them anymore.’”
Gregory thanked the festival’s committee for honoring students and leaders in the county.
“It’s nice to see us coming together honoring one another,” he said. “Because you can’t trick your peers.”
The festival, in its 13th year, celebrates the historical significance of the Harlem Renaissance, helping to educate the community about “contributions of African-Americans in literature, the performing and fine arts, social engagement, politics and education,” chairperson Andrea C. Harrison said in a statement.
The Harlem Remembrance Foundation presented its L.O.V.E. awards to people who made significant contributions to the county. The Leadership award went to music educator Walter A. Harley; the Outreach award went to Darryl Barnes of Men Aiming Higher; the Visionary award went to former county executive Wayne K. Curry; and the Excellence award went to Denice Whalen-White of the nonprofit All Shades of Pink.
Paige Kidd, a senior at Henry Wise High School, and Maleke Glee, a senior at Suitland High, won $2,000 in scholarships.
Saturday’s festival featured more than 70 food and craft vendors, as well as representatives from the school system and free health screenings. A packed crowd attended two panel discussions on history and historically black colleges.
The musical lineup for Saturday included national and local performers, as well as children’s groups. Music legend “the Godfather of Go-Go” Chuck Brown was a scheduled headliner, but because of recent illness was unable to perform. His daughter told the crowd that he is still recovering in the hospital.
“We know he is our history and our legacy,” said Carolyn Mills-Matthews, president of the Cammay Group, which was the event manager for the festival,“and we want him to know we are praying for him. He knows the community loves him.”