Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

Reaching Different Groups

BOND: Now, do you have a different style when you're appearing before a black audience, a white audience, integrated audience?

GREGORY: Yeah, but for one reason.

BOND: Different how?

GREGORY: Different how -- if you taught accounting and you went to an accountant convention, you'd have a different style ‘cause these are your peers, they know little bitty words, than you would if you just went to a professors' convention. If you was a brain surgeon, you would have a different rap when you went in a room full of brain surgeons than when you are you at the national medical convention and you speaking to all the doctors. And so a cab driver has one set of jokes around cab -- it don't mean he can't talk to everybody, but you know --the Jewish entertainers. I mean, I can go and when they go, and when they get into the Yiddish, I laugh because everybody else laughs, I don't know what they talking about.

And so, yes, I have a -- not intentionally. 98 percent of everything I say. Can -- let me tell you I got to old folks homes, and I can't talk to them like I talk to you ‘cause they hearing. So I got to slow up, and it really wipes me out, man, because my rhythm is used to -- and I got to slow up for the respect for them. You know a lot of old folks will refuse to wear a hearing aid, and so I have to talk slow enough for them. And so, sure, you have --

Now let me just throw something at you that's kind of different which blew me away. If I'm a cop and I'm arresting you, there's a certain procedure, and I don't expect you to move. I just found out about five years ago that if I'm a cop and I'm arresting a person that's deaf and dumb, all their life they talk with their hands. And so cops need special training on how to deal with a person who all they life -- and so they not hostile to you, right? And so, sure, there's a -- there's a certain lingo you pick up.

There's -- but, first, there's a difference when you talking to a hip white audience. I mean in the early days when I'd go to Harvard University and 99 percent of my audience is white, it would be altogether different when I'm talking to a white audience in the South. Man, do you know how long it was that I would never tell a reefer joke in the South? They didn't know what I was talking about. Compared to in the North. And so yes -- there's always -- you have to -- if you're really up on your game, you know, on top of your game, you will play to that audience that you're with. There are certain things I will never say, although I've never used profanity. But when I got to a church convention, I have to be conscious that I'm there. I have to be conscious of what that mindset is like, and respect that. And so yes, I'm always very conscious of it.

BOND: When did you first -- ?

GREGORY: One of the interesting things, I'm a world renowned vegetarian and they pay me $25,000 to come to the Burger King convention in Cancun. Now you think I would go there and talk about vegetarianism? No, I went there and talked about the workplace and how many Negroes and black folks eat burgers. Where'd I get that information from? NAACP Urban League. And four months later I started seeing Shaq and Cedric the Entertainer doing Burger King. So no, you adapt to the situation.