On Saturday I had the pleasure of attending a program at the Lincoln Theater. The Hung Tao Choy Mei Leadership Institute under the directorship of Abdur-Rahim Muhammad put together this wonderful event that was hosted by award winning WUSA 9 News anchor, Tracey Neale. The program was appropriately called, An Unforgettable Evening With Dick Gregory. The father, comedian, author, and civil rights/social activist, Dick Gregory was presented with the Here I Stand award in honor of Paul Robeson. This award is presented annually to an individual who has “committed his or her life to excellence in their chosen field and has demonstrated and equal commitment to activism for progressive causes.” This was my first time attending any event at the Lincoln Theater. I was very impressed with the atmosphere that has been restored to its early 20th Century grandeur. I heard some people in the back of me compare it to the Apollo Theater in Harlem. I’m not sure because I’ve never been to the Apollo in all my visits to New York? The Lincoln Theater is definitely a Washington gem.
Dr. Manning Marable, Columbia University professor of Public Affairs, Political Science, History and African American Studies was the interviewer. Dr. Marable engaged Dick Gregory in questions that took the audience from his childhood home in St. Louis, MO through his activities as a comedian and soldier for social change. Dick Gregory was in rare form as always while the audience clung to his every word. I was in complete awe of this man who was a complete inspiration, living legend and historian. He spoke of his life and the now famous people that he’s met and joined in the struggle with along the way. This list included Malcolm X, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Mandela just to name a few. He also spoke of the genius of fellow comedians Lenny Bruce and Richard Pryor. He felt that few could reach that type of genius in comedy today, but that Washington D.C.’s own Dave Chappelle was gaining ground. The show lasted for 5 hours and included a recital honoring Paul Robeson with DMA Concert Pianist, Dr. Raymond Jackson and Opera singer, Kevin Maynor.
Another treat for that most unforgettable evening was my encounter with poet and social activist, Amiri Baraka. I had a chance to go to the “meet and greet” before the show and Mr. Baraka was standing at the bar with his lovely wife, Amina Baraka. My wife and I approached them and engaged in a little conversation about the upcoming show and a little about politics. (The side picture shows Mr. Baraka and Sis Nomvuyo from South Africa). Afterwards, I shook his hand and expressed my pleasure in meeting him. I found it amusing that he responded with, "ok, I’ll see you around man." He’s a bad brotha! He was also part of the show and performed two riveting poems, which included a tribute to Paul Robeson titled, Revolutionary Legacy, Revolutionary Tradition. I wanted to shout, but I chilled because the crowd was somewhat subdued. It was a long show that started at 7:30 pm and ended close to midnight. I went home happy and enlightend, but tired.