The passing of Dick Gregory a courageous, activist and comedian

Legendary comedian and civil rights icon Dick Gregory (1932-2017) passed away Saturday, August 19, 2017 here in Washington, DC.  He had courage to fight for the rights of Black people before, during and aver the civil rights movement. He made changes through his art as a comedian with jokes that caused you holler and cry with laughter at the same time. A true “Power to the People” activist who loved his Black Community and the world!

I had the honor of meeting and being with him many times throughout my life. In my youth he was in Newark, NJ a lot visiting Amiri BarakaRas Baraka – the current Mayor of Newark, NJ father. The spoken word as Amiri Baraka was a poet and comedy were always part of the gatherings. They were educational and inspirational and serve as a large part of my foundation for Black pride and the liberation movement.

The Newark Public Library, Symphony Hall and other Newark venues were always filled with the community ready to hear Dick Gregory. He was one of the funniest and wisest men who spoke truth about we as a Black people and our community.

Then I went to FAMU for two my first two years of college with Dick Gregory’s daughter – where he came to visit and do shows often.  Later in life and just a few moths ago – I was around him speaking about his life. He gave a speech to say thank you to Ben’s Chili Bowl for the honor of being a part of the new Mural on their wall. (See pictures of the wall at my Insta Gram – IG account – NJDC07) The wall is a beautiful piece of artwork for this exciting city.

He spoke about the times we are currently living in! He was just as powerful as he was all those years ago. He was hopeful that we the people can still make a change.

The mural has a number of famous Blacks, some are DC Natives and others have been instrumental in the culture of DC. The epic comedian Dave Chapelle is one of the DC Natives. He was at the reveal of the wall as well. It was historic to see these two Black comedian icons in the neighborhood – just hanging! They were both humble and full of pride for the honor. Jim Vance a beloved local NBC 4 Washington, DC new anchor was there as well, as he is featured on the mural. Jim was frail and weak as he was fighting cancer, but his large beautiful smile was glowing. He too was honored and humbled speaking about being on the wall.

It’s a sad irony because there are three men on the mural surrounding Dave Chapelle and all of those men iconic in their work and in the lives of Black people not only in DC but around the world, are no longer with us. Mayor Marion Barry passed away in 2014 and both Jim Vance and Dick Gregory passed away this summer just a few weeks after the dedication of this inspiring mural.

If you are in DC, I strongly suggest that you make a trip over to the famous Ben’s Chili Bowl on U St, not only for some good food (I only eat the fries), great people and conversation as well as the epic and awe inspiring new mural on their wall.

Dick Gregory was an extraordinary Black man who left a legacy of Black pride. He was courageous and his activism will live on forever. Democracy Now did a great show – 1hr on him! He was at the old Fire House studios – it was done in 2/2002.

https://www.democracynow.org/2012/6/19/full_interview_comedian_activist_dick_gregory_on_racial_profiling_the_death_penalty_and_obama

His death is not only sad but it is a reminder that we have work to do and there are ancestors who gave their lives to get us here – we must not let them down.

Thanks for reading, please leave comments and tell all about The WIYATT!

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“Don’t Tread on My ADA!” A Three part series on the attack on the ADA in the 115th Congress (H.R. 620) Part III: Media coverage

*Note: This is a three part series please read Parts I & II (linked in this blog)!

From Part I of “Don’t Tread on my ADA”

Over the years the opportunity to file lawsuits, has been abused by some lawyers in some states. They have done what the media terms as “drive by or frivolous lawsuits” in mass numbers. Anderson Cooper did a horrible piece on this a few months ago for 60 minutes. He left out the disability rights side of this argument and focused his story on the business side. Which has been typical of the press but not all press have done this (more in Part III).

In December of 2016 Anderson Cooper did a show for 60Minutes titled “Drive by Law Suits”. In the story he basically gathered a group of business owners who are “tired” of being victims of these lawyers who file “outrageous” lawsuits. But what landed on the cutting room floor (does this phrase still exist with digital media) were the segments of interviews with disability rights advocates explaining how this concept of “drive by lawsuits” is a poor way of describing this issue.

As discussed in Part II of this series the businesses blame the ADA for their problems and the media supplies the stories to fuel the flame for this rhetoric. What the media does not do is present the ADA as a civil right and people with disabilities as a protected class. It is rare that you see disability rights experts on TV or on the radio discussing these issues.

It was so refreshing and exhilarating to watch the Rachel Maddow show’s coverage of the June 22, 2017 #ADAPTand RESIST #SaveMedicaid direct action in Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell and the halls of the US Senate to fight the horrific healthcare bill.

The transcript from that show is below. She started with narrating the story of the beginning of a movement to make the public transit system in Denver, CO specifically the buses accessible to people with disabilities, by the group called ADAPT. It is in that same vain that people with disabilities want to see all public accommodations accessible as is the law. They want all retail stores, restaurants and all other entities represented by ICSC, AARA, NAA and all other groups supporting H.R. 620 to be accessible.

A part of the story: (Rachel Maddow Show June 22, 2017)

The group that pulled off that militant protest in Denver in 1978, right
after the 4th of July weekend, they first called themselves the Colorado Coalition of Disabled Citizens. Eventually, they changed their name to ADAPT.

And they were relentless in Denver. They kept at it. Those first protests as I said were 1978. This is from 1981 from “The Denver Post”. The guy on the right looks a little bit like Jerry Falwell. Hes the chairman of the Denver Transit System. And you see, what hes listening to there is this guy on the left in the wheelchair, the other guy holding the mike for him. The guy in the wheelchair is, you know, giving the transit director, what for? I would like to be able to ride the bus, please. Im a taxpayer. Im paying for a service that I cannot use. Make it so I can use it, not letting this guy off of the hook.

ADAPT remains a voice in the disability rights movement fighting for the rights of all people with disabilities. The work done to force the bus industry is a model used for others. After years of civil disobedience, approximately 40 years later almost all buses in this country are accessible. At the beginning they complained about the cost and how this was impossible. Now the bus companies attend disability conferences and disability rights advocates as well as ADA compliance specialists attend their conferences creating a community working together to accomplish this goal. Another industry who put up a fight about becoming accessible was the electronic manufacturing specifically TV makers.

After the passage of the Twenty First Century Communications and Accessibility Act of 2010 (CVAA) was implemented by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) which required all Televisions to have Closed Captioning capability. Now this industry “hemmed and hawed” about the same things as the bus industry. The cost was too high and who would need to use this tool. But again after years of conversation and with the improvements in technology things have changed. In 2010 Televisions were large bulky things that took up a lot of space. Over the years Televisions have become flat surfaces and so now bars/grills/restaurants can put up several around their business. On a Sunday night you can have a group of people who watch the Real Housewives of …., NFL Sunday night football game and the Presidential Debates with a band or DJ playing music for all to enjoy. Why? Because of the Closed Captioning (CC) – people can read and enjoy the multiple show as well as listen to music. CC was set up to provide information for the Deaf, Hard of Hearing and others in the disability community so that they could enjoy the shows along with others.

These were two business industries that were made better and created a universal design for all to enjoy because of the inclusion of people with disabilities.

The media fails to show this part of the story when they discuss the implementation of the ADA in the business world. The implementation of the ADA creates an universal design that usually is for the advantage of society. The media also forgets to focus on the civil rights of persons with disabilities. Rachel Maddow did this on her show June 22, 2017 by highlighting that the fight for healthcare was also a fight for civil rights of persons with disabilities; as is the fight to stop this horrible legislation H.R. 620 from moving forward to becoming a law.

Resources:

Transcript of the Rachel Maddow June 22, 2017 Show: http://www.msnbc.com/transcripts/rachel-maddow-show/2017-06-22

http://www.cbsnews.com/videos/drive-by-lawsuits/

Help oppose this bill and sign petition at Change.org titled: “Don’t Tread on my ADA!”

Goal 5,000 – as of today we have 2, 820 sign ons!

https://www.change.org/p/dara-baldwin-don-t-tread-on-my-ada-oppose-ada-education-reform-act-of-2017-h-r-620

To read more about this bill go to:

https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/115/hr620

To see letters of opposition from organizations:

http://ndrn.org/en/public-policy/ada-a-civil-rights.html

PVA:

Paralyzed Veterans of America have drafted a point paper explaining their opposition to H.R. 620.

http://ndrn.org/images/Images/Issues/ADA/ADA_Notifty_Point_Paper_022217.pdf

DREDF:

Blog post: ADA Under Serious Attack Urgent Action Needed

https://dredf.org/2017/04/17/ada-serious-attack-urgent-action-needed/

Website with information:

https://dredf.org/hr620/

Robyn Powell’s blog on this legislation and how it will affect her life:

https://rewire.news/article/2017/05/30/americans-disabilities-act-attack-congress/

Read comments by Hotel owners who did not want Pool Lift regulations implemented in 2012:

https://www.regulations.gov/docketBrowser?rpp=50&so=DESC&sb=postedDate&po=0&dct=PS&D=DOJ-CRT-2012-0006

 

 

 

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