This past week, I had an assignment in my US African American history class that I had to find a primary source from the Civil Rights Movement from the 1960's and then present this material to the class. Originally, I wanted to find foreign news articles about our civil rights movement and to see how it played overseas but stumbling around in the Library I came across this book. American Mix the Minority Experience in America edited by Morris Freedman and Carolyn Banks. The first document that caught my eye was an excerpt from Correta Scott King's autobiography but it was a short two paragraph "sermon" by Dick Gregory. I was familiar with his name. People still come into to Barnes and Noble to buy his autobiography, that's title I can't even type because all of my life I have told that is just not a word that is said, written or thought.
Gregory is an interesting man. He began his career as a comic in Chicago. He was an activist during the Civil Rights movement and even participated in Sit-ins and getting people registered to vote. He spoke out against the Vietnam War and even ran for President in 1968. In that same year he published The Shadow that Scares Me, a collection of his "sermons". One was America was momma's momma. I was taken aback at how Gregory was able to pack so much anger, hurt, pain, grievances into two short paragraphs. I could go on and on but I think Mr. Gregory speaks for himself. There is still nothing more powerful then the written word.
America was momma's momma
Now that I am a man, I have "given up childish ways." I realize that America in my momma and American was Momma's momma. And I am going to place the blame for injustice and wrong on the right momma. Even today, when I leave my country to appear on television and make other public appearances in foreign countries, I find it difficult to speak of the injustices I experience in this country. Because America in my momma. Even if Momma is a whore, she is still Momma. Many times I am asked if I would go to to war if drafted. I alwasys answer, "Yes, under one condition; that I be allowed to go to the front linke withough a gun. Momma is worth dying for, but there is nothing worth killing for. And If I ever change my opinion about killing, I will go to Mississippi and kill that sheriff who spit in my wife's face."
America is my momma. One Fourth of July, I want to go to the New York harbor and talk to Momma - the Statue of Liberty. I want to snatch that torch out of her hand take her with me to the ghetto and sit her down on the street corner. I want to show her the "tired, the poor and the huddled masses yearning to breather free.: I want to show Momma what she had been doing to her children. And Momma should weep, For the grief of the ghetto is the grief of the entire American family.
Gregory, Dick. America was momma's momma; The Shadow that Scares Me. Doubleday & Company, Inc. 1968