2016 Juneteenth, A Freedom Celebration – June 17th – 19th
Elegba Folklore Society presents Juneteenth 2016, A Freedom Celebration in Richmond, Virginia, June 17 – 18. This two-part event features The Symposium on Friday, June 17 in Rhythm Hall at Dominion Arts Center (formerly Richmond CenterStage). Doors open at 6:30p. Tickets are $15 for one and $25 for two, general admission. Tickets for students, 12 -18 are $10 and children under 12 are admitted free of charge. On Saturday, June 18, In Reflection happens beginning at 5:00p at the Manchester Dock and along the Trail of Enslaved Africans. Admission is free.
Dick Gregory, legendary comedian, civil rights activist and natural health enthusiast whose social satire influences America’s thinking, will keynote The Symposium. Elegba Folklore Society’s performers will also appear.
Mr. Gregory will appear in Richmond just a few weeks after the Off-Broadway opening of the biographical, Turn Me Loose. This new comedic drama is about the 60’s comic genius Dick Gregory, the first Black stand-up to make white audiences laugh at the absurdity of bigotry. Gretchen Law wrote and John Legend with Mike Jackson produce, in association with Get Lifted Film Company. According to Gregory’s website, the play reveals how the overwhelming power of activism enticed Gregory from one of the most successful show business careers of the postwar era into a life of sacrifice and danger alongside Martin Luther King, Medgar Evers and other Civil Rights leaders. Wielding razor-sharp wit Gregory hacked away at myths about race, poverty, war, and politics. In a recent interview President Obama called Dick Gregory one of his two favorite comics ever. The other was Richard Pryor who himself said, “Dick Gregory was the greatest and he was the first.” Gregory is still championing the same messages today, at age 83. He is a last living champion from a remarkable period of struggle for dignity and freedom. Joe Morton, Emmy winning Scandal star, portrays Mr. Gregory.
A theatre-goer reflected, “We need Dick Gregory more than ever!”
Elegba Folklore Society invites all those who appreciate Dick Gregory’s commentary along with a new generation who will discover, says the site, “one of the most prophetic, committed, authentic, confrontational — and hysterically funny — public figures of our time.”
After a stint in the military, in the mid ’50s, he became part of a new generation of black comedians that included Nipsey Russell, Bill Cosby and Godfrey Cambridge. These comedians broke with the minstrel tradition, which presented stereotypical black characters.
Gregory drew on current events, especially the racial issues, for much of his material: “Segregation is not all bad. Have you ever heard of a collision where the people in the back of the bus got hurt?”
Inspired by the work of leaders such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and organizations such as the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), Gregory took part in the Civil Rights Movement and used his celebrity status to draw attention to such issues as segregation and disfranchisement.
When local Mississippi governments stopped distributing Federal food surpluses to poor blacks in areas where SNCC was encouraging voter registration, Gregory chartered a plane to bring in several tons of food. After the assassinations of King, President John F. Kennedy, and Robert Kennedy, Gregory became increasingly convinced of the existence of political conspiracies.
Gregory fasted in protest more than 60 times. In 1984 he founded Health Enterprises, Inc., a company that distributed weight loss products. In 1987 Gregory introduced the Slim-Safe Bahamian Diet, a popular, powdered diet mix. In 2001, after being diagnosed with cancer, Mr. Gregory put together a regimen of a variety of diet, vitamins, exercise, and modern devices not even known to the public, which ultimately resulted in his reversing the trend of the Cancer to the point where today he is 100% Cancer free.
Mr. Gregory has been honored by his peer celebrities on several nationally recognized occasions. He has authored his pivotal autobiography, Nigger, in 1963, Code Name Zorro: The Murder of Martin Luther King Jr. with Mark Lane in 1971 which was recently released under another title, Murder In Memphis, and his most recent book, Callus On My Soul, a best-seller within weeks of publication, is an autobiography that updates his earlier work.
An admirer was quoted as saying, “I am lost for words but I realized you were created in gods image to enlighten us on better understanding. I honor you.”
The next day, Juneteenth 2016, A Freedom Celebration moves to the Manchester Dock for In Reflection. This commemorative program opens with a youth summit to explore cultural perspectives in the transition from high school to college. Elegba Folklore Society’s performers provide important cultural context for examining slavery in America and the event culminates with the Annual Torch Lit Night Walk on the Trail of Enslaved Africans.