by Shawn Hamilton
“There’s a whole lot of people who could stand up here and be honest with you today, but they won’t because they understand your reaction. But God’s blessed me well. I ain’t never cared what ya’ll think about me. And I’ve been knowin’ for a long time that truth ain’t never had to be validated by your ignorance.” Dick Gregory, Compton College, 1981
Dick Gregory’s Uncanny Foresight
One of the pivotal events related to my political deflowering occurred when I was 20 years old. I had heard comedian-activist Dick Gregory speaking at California’s Compton College on March 26, 1981, and at one point during his talk, he unambiguously and clearly stated that then-president Ronald Reagan would soon be shot and possibly assassinated. He said it with a calm confidence that impressed me at the time, and I marveled that he would venture such a bold statement publicly.
I was even more impressed — startled and a bit stunned, really — when four days later Reagan was shot, just as Gregory had predicted.
Later we learned the shooter’s brother had recently made plans to dine with Neil Bush, son of then US vice-president, George H.W. Bush, who in 1976 had been installed as director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).
In hindsight, it appears that Dick Gregory tried to make the public aware of a stratum of political power and social control that generally remains unknown to the public and functions outside the realm of our quaint “democratic” institutions. He was describing what some are now calling the “deep state” although that term is relatively recent and its definition contentious and unreliable.
At the time, Gregory simply referred to members of this loosely knit group of ridiculously wealthy people as the “superpimps”. He was suggesting that while the term “pimps” most commonly refers to sex trade hustlers in lower-rent districts, super rich white exploiters exhibit exactly the same behavior and should be thus credited.
While the general population remains unaware of this plutocracy, Gregory informs us that President Richard Nixon knew of its existence, having learned about it “the hard way”, and that Reagan, to his detriment, was about to find out. Gregory said:
“Dick Nixon found out the hard way. Ronald Reagan gonna find out the hard way! It ain’t never been about Ronald Reagan, baby; that was a manipulation. It ain’t about Ronald Reagan. It’s about George Bush. It’s about puttin’ the CIA in the White House. That’s what it’s about.
“And if Ronald Reagan would have died three days before that election they’d have stuffed him and ran him anyway! And the only reason they got by with it is because of your ignorance. There’s whole lots of people who could stand up here and be honest with you today, but they won’t because they understand your reaction. But God’s blessed me well. I ain’t never cared ‘bout what ya’ll think about me. And I’ve been knowin’ for a long time that truth ain’t never had to be validated by your ignorance.”
In producing this article, I have tried to accurately reproduce Gregory’s voice and words — as he spoke them and as one hears him speaking in the original recording. I transcribed and edited it for accuracy rather than social delicacy, so I trust that readers will consider the context and allow themselves not to feel offended.
While Gregory’s style of speaking to the Compton College audience does not conform to conventional rules of standard English, I note that I also heard him speak at the Riviera Country Club in Los Angeles, where he employed “the Queen’s English”. Gregory understood basic principles of classical Rhetoric and tailored his delivery to whatever particular audience he was addressing to maximize effectiveness. That was another aspect of his oratorical brilliance! He was a wonderful speaker, and I think readers will appreciate hearing the audio of Gregory’s 1981 Compton College speech that will follow this article.
One reason I felt attracted to Gregory, I suspect, was my sensitivity to fascist influence in the United States. My father was a US Air Corp pilot during World War 2 who spent time at Stalag 7A after his Mustang was shot down in Germany. Ralph’s influence resulted in my appreciating and supporting Gregory’s insistence that fascism be recognized and countered wherever it exists! Gregory warns us:
“It looks like somewhere that funny history ain’t too far back. That’s how them Germans got in trouble and let Hitler and them Nazis slip up on ‘em…
“I can look back now at all this mess that’s gone down, down through the years, and see this thing that’s rollin’ in on ya’, and wonder how come you can’t see it.”
This “thing that’s rollin’ in on ya'”, Gregory implied none too subtly, is essentially a fascist takeover of the United States (and perhaps the world). He issues this warning several times throughout his talk, reminding us of a set of suspicious circumstances that occurred a few weeks before his Compton College talk.
“How many of you all in this room already know that three weeks ago on Sunday, they shot at Ronald Reagan coming out of church? How many of ya’ll know that? And not one newspaper reported it across this country — only television — and they said a Secret Service agent’s rifle accidently went off in the case, and any old fool know you don’t put no rifle in no case unless you break it down and take the ammunition out. And it just happened to go off while Ronnie was coming out of church. And old Ronald may not be as dumb as we think he is. I think he knows Bush is after him. That’s why he sent Bush to Atlanta. He said, ‘Go to Atlanta and try to look like a little black boy.’
“I think he knows Bush is after him” is rather unambiguous, don’t you think? He’s declaring that George Bush constituted a mortal threat to Ronald Reagan. This didn’t seem too surprising when I first heard it, but four days later when Reagan was shot, it suddenly assumed ominous significance.
Gregory’s mention of “Atlanta” refers to a situation in which nearly 20 young black people had gone missing in Georgia. He concluded that these disappearances, which took place in the same city where the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention institution is located, were linked to research pertaining to clandestine development of a cancer-suppressing substance called “Interferon”, a drug portrayed as effectively interfering with the proliferation of cancer cells. While this prospect may sound preposterous when one first hears it proposed, the associated facts and verifiable details render his conclusion plausible even if unpalatable.
Similarly, Gregory had warned the country after the November 18, 1978 Jonestown massacre in Guyana that if intelligence operations could be allowed to develop and proceed unchallenged in a foreign country, the next likely step would be such events transpiring on US soil. That “Jonestown” constituted such an operation seems clear from the evidence.
Phillip Blakey, Reverend Jim Jones’ trusted aide who came to Guyana in 1974 to establish the Jonestown compound, was working for the CIA in 1975, and while a member of the Peoples Temple in San Francisco, Blakey had served as a mercenary in Angola, recruiting mercenaries for the CIA-financed “Union for the Total Independence of Angola” (UNITA) forces. Blakey was also one of the few survivors of the event.
US Congresswoman Jackie Speier said in Chapter 4 of her 2018 book, Undaunted: Surviving Jonestown, Summoning Courage, and Fighting Back, “After the 1975 election, Mayor Moscone appointed Jones chairman of the San Francisco Housing Authority Commission, even as questions had started swirling about where, or from whom, Jones was getting his money.”
As it turned out, the source of this money may have been the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). I did not first hear about these allegations from Dick Gregory but from John Stockwell — commander of the CIA’s Angolan Task Force in 1975-76. Stockwell reluctantly conceded that the CIA did fund covert domestic recruitment efforts of Americans to fight in Angola, and he is a likely source for Gregory’s assertions. He revealed this information when presenting to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence for the United States Senate, Ninty-sixth Congress, Second Session on S. 2284, National Intelligence Act of 1980.
As I’ve said and emphasize, Gregory announced to a public audience that Reagan was going to be shot less than a week before it happened.
In this same talk Gregory asserts that the murder of San Francisco’s Mayor George Moscone (along with Supervisor Harvey Milk) on November 27, 1978, involved a cover-up intended to squelch investigations. Had the mayor not been silenced, he would have had to explain to a grand jury why so many Bay Area foster children were being sent to Jonestown.
You might recall that earlier that same month a San Francisco-based congressional representative from California, Leo Ryan, had gone to Guyana to investigate the numerous complaints his office had received. Subsequently, when Ryan, his aides, and several terrified residents tried to leave, they were ambushed at the Port Kaituma airstrip by some of Jones’ followers, including a suspicious character loyal to Jones named Larry Layton. Congressman Ryan and four others in his entourage were killed in the ambush. Congresswoman Speier, who in 1978 was serving as Ryan’s legislative aide and had accompanied him to Jonestown, was shot five times during that incident but survived against the odds.
When I began to write this article, I had forgotten that the murders of Moscone and Milk in San Francisco had happened so shortly after the Jonestown tragedy. The fact that those two events coincided so closely does not decrease the credibility of Gregory’s claims.
Moscone and Milk had been gunned down by a former San Francisco cop and city supervisor named Dan White, who in court had been defended with the now famous “Twinkie Defense”, which suggested that ingestion of sugar had caused him to go momentarily crazy. It was a ridiculous defense, yet, in fairness, the media had blown that aspect of the trial out of proportion. There were other factors that influenced the jury’s decision to convict Dan White of manslaughter rather than murder.
During Gregory’s Compton College talk, he repeatedly warns the audience, and by extension the larger public, of what amounts to an impending takeover of our democratic society by wealthy, powerful, and potentially sinister forces. He makes fun of how clueless citizens remain oblivious to such prospects:
“I cannot believe. See I’m born in an all black, segregated community, and I thought you white folks in America had your act together. I thought ya’ll was takin’ care of business. I used to pray every night, ‘Oh Lord, let me be like white folks when I grow up!’ And one day we force this country to integrate and I get over here with you white folks and find out you white folks is crazier than niggers — and the bad part about it is you don’t even know it — walkin’ around thinkin’ you cute and thinkin’ you safe, and they fixin’ to blow you away. The one big thing between white folks and black folks in America — we know what they’ll do to us; when they do it to ya’ll, ya’ll be surprised. Then you wants to sue!”
Later in the talk he says, “But don’t none of ya’ll want to deal with reality because you’re all hooked into that other thing, but you fixin’ to lose all that mess. The country’s broke; the country ain’t got no money! That old jelly bean-eating pimp [Reagan] keeps trying to tell you all but don’t nobody hear.”
And later, “They don’t need you! They got the little robot — that’ll do anything you can do and won’t talk back. They got a little robot in the automobile industry that do the welding. It can do more welding in four seconds than a human can do in seven hours! I mean, how can the dude — the chump — be getting ready to replace you, and you don’t even see it?”
Looking back nearly 40 years after Gregory gave this talk, we might reasonably ask ourselves to what extent his bold prognostications have proven correct.
Not only did Gregory accurately predict the Reagan shooting, I believe he also warned about the event now referred to as “9-11”.
I address this point in an interview I gave to a No Lies Radio in January of 2014. The interview begins 15 minutes in, and at 19 minutes the host, Andy Steele, asks me about my personal experience. I said:
“I was teaching…and I was watching the news before school on September 11th, and I saw the second plane hit the Trade Tower…and, I had listened to Dick Gregory for years — you know, the activist and comedian — and I immediately recalled something I’d heard him say in reference to the plutocrats who run the country. He had said, ‘They’re planning a big ole surprise party for ya’ll.’ So when I saw the plane hit, that was the first thing I thought, ‘This is the surprise party!’ And my opinion hasn’t changed.
“A friend of mine was staying with me named Dan Roggenkamp — we were teachers together in Taiwan — and he was working at this school in Sacramento that I was at — he was staying with me — and I asked for his recollection of what was said when we saw the second plane hit, and this is his exact quote. He said: ‘The main thing I remember was that you immediately said something like, “Well, there go all of our rights!” I remember being impressed at the time that you could make such an observation so quickly. You really did say that, don’t you remember?’
“I didn’t remember, but I’m glad he reminded me of it. In any case, losing our rights was exactly what happened, no matter who was behind the attacks.”
I remember seeing Dick Gregory maligned and misrepresented in various media including late night TV. I recall one Saturday Night Live (SNL) episode that portrayed him as a buffoon who just made things up and saw phantasms in clouds. The skit satirized the 1975 appearance of Dick Gregory and JFK assassination researcher Bob Groden on Geraldo Rivera’s TV show, Goodnight America, which premiered the first public viewing of the infamous “Zapruder Film” that clearly shows Kennedy’s head being thrown back as if he’d been shot from the front. I recall the Gregory character in the SNL skit saying, “As you can clearly see…,” and then an absurdly muddled photo of nothing discernable was displayed, suggesting that Gregory was fundamentally irrational, which he was not! Anyone viewing the JFK motorcade sequence could easily see the problem it posed for the Warren Commission’s official explanation!
These cheezy comedic efforts failed as humor at the time, but they helped to cultivate a false public perception that information provided by Dick Gregory is untrustworthy. Apparently, discrediting him was an important goal for certain malevolent forces wielding sufficient media influence to defame him. This has left me with a profound distaste for the type of orchestrated effort I witnessed to discredit and diminish a brave individual whose social and political contributions and influence were so necessary and valuable to the preservation of any sense of freedom and democracy.
I credit Dick Gregory with influencing many important aspects of my life. He encouraged my political and social awareness; he increased my awareness of food adulteration and the chemical contamination of drinking water, and most significantly, I think, he emphasized the importance of respect, love and compassion in all of our interactions.
I appreciate Mr. Gregory’s influence and will always honor his memory. ∞
Original version by Leonard Cohen here.
Well I’ve heard there was a secret chord
That David played and it pleased the Lord
But you don’t really care for music, do you?
Well it goes like this
The fourth, the fifth, the minor fall and the major lift
The baffled king composing Hallelujah. Hallelujah
Well your faith was strong but you needed proof
You saw her bathing on the roof
Her beauty and the moonlight overthrew ya
She tied you to her kitchen chair
And she broke your throne and she cut your hair
And from your lips she drew the Hallelujah! Hallelujah,
Hallelujah … Hallelujah
For 332 years my family has been living on African soil.
My origin is Flemish and Saxon.
My ancestry is old. It’s as old as yours—
An unbroken line of mothers, farmers, bakers, traders, wagon and wheel makers.
Historically, my family has experienced persecution, victimisation, and murder at the hands of the ruling class with nauseating frequency – I am the descendent of Marguerite de Savoye, a 1688 Huguenot refugee and the son of an Indian slave whose father was Snyman, who was later a prisoner of Robben Island. I was a refugee myself.
Unlike my friends and my husband, I left the soft life of Northern Europe and came back home.
There was a new country to build. Babies to raise. Food to grow, and a new nation to feed.
A few years later I was fighting for my life during a farm attack.
A few years after that it happened again.
I lost everything and stopped farming.
Now there is “Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment” (BBEEE) and State sanctioned racism. There is not a single department in government that is not riddled with corruption, fraud or theft, or, in most cases, all three. There is no punishment for this. The perpetrators just given other positions in government, and they do it all over again.
Municipalities are failing, crucial infrastructure is collapsing, and South Africa is in an economic free fall that our current state president calls “radical reform”.
Poverty is rising to untenable levels never experienced since the Mfecane, but unlike the tribal elders of old, who quickly realised that these white strangers with their funny hats and hard lines were valuable assets. The current ruling class, descendants of those very people, has decreed that me and my kind are not welcome here even though much of what makes up South Africa is a result of our collective efforts, knowledge and skill.
I am proud of where I come from. We were not British or Dutch colonists. We were exiled here. None of my ancestors took land by force or trickery. It was by honest labour on other farms, by trade or by mutual agreement hard won fighting side by side against the invading Ndebele or Zulu at the time of the Mfecane, which is when my forefathers and mothers travelled into the South African interior.
We worked hard, built and created. Despite this, all of the French Huguenot descendants still living in South Africa are once again facing persecution – this time because we are white. Even though we came from a country that persecuted us and stripped us – not only of our wealth, property and belongings but all record of our existence. It was destroyed over differing opinions regarding religion that have no relevance to anyone any more.
So, Francois Mitterand apologised to all Huguenots and released a cool postage stamp declaring that France is the Home of the Huguenots, yet I cannot go back there. I have no claim to French citizenship because in 1945 all French Huguenots lost the right of repatriation when the 1889 Nationality Law was revoked. I think this had something to do with the Nazis, but neither myself nor anyone of my ancestors was one of those. Hell, we were not a part of the Broederbond (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Afrikaner_Broederbond) either, which left us on the wrong end of the Afrikaans Nationalists too!
It is worthy to note that when the Afrikaner Nationalist Party (Nats) came into power and got South Africa back from the Brits, they did not set about destroying everything that had been built and developed to that point despite their dislike of the British. They set about creating their own, thus increasing the economic strength of this country.
Please don’t get me wrong when I say these things. I have much love for my country. At 19 I was an A Status political refugee in the Netherlands. After my return home the Civil Cooperation Bureau (CCB) and the security police tried to kidnap my children in 1989, but I got tipped off and managed to prevent it from happening. They even set my house on fire one night while we were all sleeping.
The political environment changed. Apartheid died the death it deserved, and all I had sacrificed and fought for started to materialise. Instead of the reward of a “rainbow nation”, I got beaten, raped, stabbed and almost killed all because I am a farmer. There was nothing to steal. No guns, no money. With both farm attacks the perpetrators were never found despite all the evidence, including DNA and shell casings found after the second attack.
The farm I built up from nothing with nothing but my hands and my will is now a squatter camp. The house in which my youngest daughter was born has been long been stripped and the whole farm laid to waste. “Kill the Boer; kill the farmer” is what many sitting in parliament chanted and still do at mass rallies. The chant now though, thanks to the former state president, is “bring my machine gun” (Mashini Wami), but the meaning is the same… it’s a popular ring tone if you want to understand where my fellow South Africans’ heads are at. Can you imagine walking down your street, hearing a complete stranger’s phone ringing and the song that it sings to its happy, smiling-faced, owner is about killing you?
To give you some additional personal perspective:
My father survived two attacks at his place of work. He was beaten, kicked and had an AK-47 pointed at his head and another pushed into his belly. Granted, this was just a robbery, but I have put it in here because, traumatic as it was, the trauma was nothing in comparison with what followed.
Shortly after my attack, Claire, an Nguni farmer from KwaZulu Natal, was horrifically tortured, raped and had her head hacked off. It was never found and neither were the people that hurt and killed her. They never stole a thing.
In 2018 the father of my son’s best friend, MD, a child I fostered for a time, was shot in the stomach and died an agonising death trying to protect his youngest daughter from getting raped during an attack on their farm. They raped her anyway while her father lay dying – case unsolved.
My friend and neighbour, Dex Goodman, got shot and paralysed – case unsolved. Another friend, Robin Greaves, lost his farm and talcum mine during a violent land grab last year. His manager and all the staff fled for their lives, leaving all their belongings behind. The farm and mine was stripped and everything either stolen or smashed. The Malane police did nothing to help them although they did assault the owner’s son repeatedly for demanding the badge numbers of the police that had been dispatched – apparently not to defend them, as they should have done, but the invaders. The cops went so far as to threaten Robert with arrest when he insisted that the police do something to stop the invasion. They still cannot get access to their farm – case unsolved.
These are just a few stories of those closest to me. If I start adding attacks of the associates and families of my friends, the list will get depressingly long.
Our current national statistic for Gender Based Violence (GBV) is one in two women, but to be honest, myself and nearly every woman I know, across all walks of life, has been beaten and raped at least once, and others, like myself and Jennifer, more than once.
My eldest daughter was sexually assaulted by two boys in the girls’ bathroom at school.
My sister was raped by a colleague at work.
My sister-in-law was attacked and raped her home. She was also strangled but passed out, and her attacker left her for dead.
Out of all the women in my immediate family, only my youngest daughter has been spared this trauma, and not a day goes by that I don’t pray for her safety, grateful that at least one of us has been left untouched.
In each of these cases, no action was taken against the perpetrators because of their political affiliations, including that of my eldest daughter. Where does that leave the statistic? 90% and this is just in my immediate family. The currently touted statistic for GBV is 1 in two woman but opinions vary greatly on this as most woman don’t report rapes and beatings. I believe we have the highest rape statistic in the world based solely on reported rapes, but nobody really knows the actual extent.
Concerning my friends, acquaintances and work colleagues:
Claire was sodomised and suffocated on the grounds of the Anglican Church – case solved, but only after another woman was raped and murdered.
Jennifer was gang raped on her way home from work – case unsolved.
Cynthia’s daughter was raped and then had her head smashed to pulp with a paving stone when she walked to the shop to buy milk and bread. She had three young children – case unsolved.
Edith was raped and shot in the head when three men broke into her home. She was a single mother with a 2-year old daughter that was in her room with her at the time – case unsolved.
Debbie was attacked and raped at the homeless shelter for which she volunteered – case unsolved.
The 78-year old mother of the psychologist that was treating me for PTSD was attacked in their home. She was rolled up in a carpet and beaten with a pole from her head to her feet, over and over again – case unsolved.
In the last year, two women I worked with were badly beaten for no apparent reason. Busi’s head looked like a soccer ball she was kicked so hard and so many times – police refused to take statements.
Is this a frequent occurrence in your neighbourhood and amongst your friends and family? Here it is almost normal and that is not normal.
If you want to understand why rape and GBV is not an issue to the entire judicial system, you need to know that our former state president is a serial rapist and a straight out thug and criminal. He sanctioned the routine rape of female African National Congress (ANC) cadres in Tanzania when he was a general in Umkhonto we Sizwe (armed wing of ANC). To politician and ex-president Jacob Zuma and his men, the woman cadres were there to be used and abused at leisure, and a number of these men have proven themselves to be seriously sadistic.
The first woman to speak out on the rapes and other heinous abuses sanctioned by the former state president never made it to the Truth and Reconciliation hearings. She happened to white and a farmer in Magaliesburg. She was found having been raped, sodomised and tortured to death, then she’d been stuffed into the boot of her car. The violence of her death sent a warning to others to shut the fuck up, and it worked! Even the journalist she spoke to, who has all the notes from their initial interview, has remained terrified and mute, still afraid for her life. Why? There is hardly a single male comrade that isn’t implicated in the rape, or worse, of his fellow freedom fighters, and today they all sit in Government, the Security and Police Services, and the ANC itself.
The #metoo campaign gave voice to just two former ANC cadres who finally spoke out. Everything they said was denied or treated with disbelief, especially by the perpetrators’ wives, but it really happened. Feel free to look up and verify the two stories.
Farm attacks and rape is a culture in South Africa. Not even little girls and babies are sacrosanct. Socially, there is no stigma attached to any of these heinous crimes, nor to corruption and theft. If senior ANC leaders can rape, pillage and plunder with impunity and then go on to become State President, so can anyone else. If you think this is a harsh statement, please do your due diligence and look it up – all the evidence is freely available.
In 2019 there were 552 farm attacks with 52 murders. At the time of writting there have been 139 attacks and 29 murders so far this year and we are not even half way through the year, 68 occured under the covid 19 lockdown, this is 22.2 attacks per month of the lockdown.
If a farm attack was just a case of simple robbery nobody would bat an eye, and I would not be sitting here writing this sad missive. I would still be on my farm singing “The Redemption Song” and the “Mongolian Prayer to the Mountains” to my cows while I milked, but when perpetrators spend hours torturing their victims and killing them slowly – from 98-year old grannies to children, the only rational conclusion that any sane person can draw is that something is very wrong here.
There are journalists who are very quick to point out that crime in the townships is rife, and yes it is. This country is rotten with crime. Nobody is denying this, but torture is not rife in the townships, and to compare the one with the other is just muddying the waters and doing neither shitty situation justice. Having survived two attacks and experiencing the level of hatred and cruelty I encountered in both, I feel I am more competent to judge and comment in this regard than any journalist or statistician.
As a family we have battled extreme trauma and loss, and we have survived. I am not even going to go into the extent of the psychological damage we have suffered.
Despite everything that has happened, not a day goes by that I don’t wish that I could farm again. I would give both eye teeth and my left tit to farm here. Realistically though, what are the odds I’d survive a third attack? It’s a miracle I survived the first and second ones. Living through that twice in one lifetime is more than most humans ever have to endure – even those in war zones.
I know I will not survive another tragedy brought about because we are who we are. I cannot help the colour I was born, my gender, nor the place I was born. I know my country has no love for me, but it’s not in my nature to give up, which is why I am studying, proactive in finding solutions because, you see, I have Hope that there is a small, out-of-the-way place where I can live without prejudice, fear and insecurity – a place where I can be a fully productive part of a reasonably sane society that does not sanction malfeasance to the extent its occurs here. I just want to be free to grow food, make cheese, bake bread and enjoy a fulfilled life, like any other gran, watching my grand babies grow into well-balanced, strong and beautiful people and my children get old.
I don’t believe that this is too much to expect or ask.