By Charlie Smith
The Greenwood Commonwealth
Five minutes in, Bill Cosby interrupted Greenwood High School student Jocelyn Steele’s speech Nov. 20 about youth taking control of their lives.
“Is this wonderful or not?” Cosby said. “She is telling you where the bridge is out.”
The comedian then instructed Steele to start over from the top but this time for the audience at Wesley United Methodist Church to encourage her. She did so, stopping only for cheers.
The moment fit Cosby’s message that African Americans must explain their culture and instill pride in their children by age 12 or keep losing them to drugs, crime and teenage pregnancy.
“I want this culture back,” he said. “Explain black pride, and you start when you’re breast feeding.”
Cosby spent the afternoon in Greenwood, leading a walk through South Greenwood that ended with a speech at Broad Street Park before heading to Wesley. He recounted some things he had seen — litter-strewn yards, drug dealers on corners, tombstones turned over and grass grown up.
“Quit waiting for people to come and do things for you,” he said. “Nobody is showing any initiative. Cut your own grass for these lots that look so bad.”
After Greenwood Mayor Sheriel Perkins told him about struggles surrounding the Broad Street Pool during the integration era, he responded, “Hey man, make your own pool.”
Perkins could not be reached for comment.
“You keep pointing to some white people in a building where the same checks are coming from that you get twice a month,” Cosby said later.
Blacks shouldn’t wait on Jesus to accomplish everything for them either, he said.
“Jesus is not coming to do this because Jesus is in you and God’s in you,” he said. “Am I right? Then why are you letting them lie dormant?”
Truly appreciating what black culture really is will cure many of the community’s ills, he said. “The drug dealer is not in your culture, nor is the prostitute, nor is the glorified pimp if you teach black pride,” he said. “They have no pride. They don’t know their culture.”
If blacks get their culture together, it will stop their use of the n-word — “this degrading, horrible name with blood mixed in it, which the patriots mixed in it,” he said. “They did not come from Africa to here with that name. It was waiting for them.”
He warned against voting based only on race for both blacks and whites. “You’ve got to put pressure on the promissory notes by these smiling people, these politicians,” he said. “Get that out of here. Get her out of here. Get them all out of here. Hold them all accountable.”
Cosby’s attire was as simple and straightforward as his message: gray Temple University sweats, tennis shoes and black sunglasses. Even though he talked about serious topics, his humor shone through at times.
• On sagging pants: “I never heard a girl yet say, ‘You know, that’s a nice crack.’”
• On crime: “It’s not the Ku Klux Klan riding through your neighborhood. It’s somebody’s son, and you know the person. He’s black, and he wants some money so he can buy some crack.”
• On hair extensions: “Don’t pin Korean hair on a black head. If you’re going to love a black woman, love all of her.”
• On “street smarts”: “There’s no geniuses on the corner.”
• On children who joined him on the walk: “Somebody said, ‘Oh, they love him.’ I said, ‘No, they just want to be on TV.’”
• On parents who come to school and curse out teachers: “I’ve never heard where the teachers say, ‘let me blankety-blank you.’”
• On Grand Theft Auto video game: “Cost your mother $250 to buy that for you so you can practice your entrance exam (to prison).”
His comments were filmed and will be used in a documentary along with scenes from his hometown of Philadelphia, Pa., said Curressia Brown.
The Mississippi Valley State University professor and her husband, Troy, helped bring Cosby back to Greenwood for the second time in two years. The purpose of his visit was to remember and celebrate the values of the past that can improve lives today, she said.
“There’s no excuse for us not knowing and appreciating our history,” Brown said. “Empowerment won’t happen to us. We have to do that for ourselves.”