Volume 39: A Man With Legendary Status

“I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody.”
-Bill Cosby

            This is a direct quote from one of the nation’s most successful African Americans and more importantly, one of the nation’s biggest Philanthropists. Bill Cosby has done more for underprivileged people than many of us could ever dream of. Even with his various contributions, Bill Cosby had come under scrutiny in recent times with the African American community, with many considering him an “Uncle Tom” and a “sellout” to his race because of controversial remarks made during several speeches in his hometown of Philadelphia. During these speeches, he spoke out about illegal drugs, teenage pregnancy, high school dropouts, single parenting, vulgarity and Black Entertainment Television and hip hop. He focused on the lower income black families and he bashed the counterproductive black people, “who had forgotten the sacrifices of those in the Civil Rights Movement.”


            Black people didn’t seem to take that very well. Many questioned if Bill Cosby was “out of touch” with the black community and claimed that Bill Cosby was being judgmental and turning his back on the community that made him. What many don’t know is that Bill Cosby is not only from Philadelphia, but also lived in the infamous Richard Island Projects. I agreed with what he said in his speeches and his observations reinforced what many already know-The Truth Hurts! I believe that many were embarrassed by Cosby’s honesty in entailing what we already knew. No one could formulate a rebuttal for what Bill Cosby was saying. Here is a man that overcame the same struggle as everyone else and gave away millions of dollars to noble causes and worthy children who made education a priority. I had the privilege to be in attendance to one of his speeches a few years ago in New Jersey and left truly inspired, holding on to Cosby’s every word.

            That is why I was extremely pleased when I saw a note on Cheyney University’s facebook page about Bill Cosby coming to the very HBCU that I received my education from; America’s oldest historically black institution of higher learning, Founded in 1837. I have had a serious love/hate relationship with that school, however Cheyney is family…and no one ever wants anyone else to talk negatively about their family…no matter how true some things may be or how dysfunctional a family may appear. I figured the great Bill Cosby coming to Cheyney could only produce wonderful things and figured to be a once in a lifetime opportunity for students to actually see and meet him. I read the note on the facebook page:


We will have a brief visit of Dr. Bill Cosby on Monday morning. Dr. Cosby has requested that we do not ask for autographs, pictures, or rush upon him for conversations. There are a small group of invited people—to honor his wishes.

As you also know, we are in the process of developing a community of interest for Cheyney University that will help us develop our centers of excellence, respond to the needs of the region, and increase the college-going rate. Thus, it is my hope that the visit with Dr. Cosby goes well, and that we develop a long-term relationship with him and others.

Let us show him our Cheyney Pride!

Thank you.

President Howard-Vital

            I was confused. I couldn’t understand how a legendary figure from such humble beginnings that had amassed such colossal success would request that from a small campus of college students, who would be so enthused by his presence. I couldn’t think of anyone more deserving for a few moments of Cosby’s time than the college students of Cheyney University, who after all are enrolled in school to receive education-the very same education that only 10% of Americans attempt to receive…and an even smaller percentage actually attain. I had to read the letter again for clarity: “do not ask for autographs, pictures, or rush upon him for conversation.”

Each word had the impact of a kick in the groin from Serena Williams. I couldn’t envision Bill Cosby requesting that. Not the same Bill Cosby that donated $20 million dollars to Spellman College years ago, or was the Activist, or purchased computers and gave scholarships to underprivileged kids in Philly. He’s the same man who garnered the nickname of “America’s Dad” and has the Doctorate of Education. I figured that the only people who made those requests were the administration at Cheyney…but why?

            Deeply annoyed, but still perplexed…I asked a few alumni what they thought of the note on facebook and asked them to simply tell me If I’m Buggin’?
They saw things the exact same way I did. But who’s idea was it? If it was in fact Bill Cosby’s idea to be left alone…were the people who said that Cosby was “out of touch” correct? Or was this a case of a man who just wanted to be a normal citizen for a day and wanted to walk Cheyney’s beautiful campus without being disturbed. I remember when I first came to Cheyney and stood on it’s quadrangle-the Universities most beautiful site to behold. I thought about the obstacles that I overcame to get there and the pressure and honor of being the first in my family to go to college-and I wanted to shed tears. I thought about how slaves weren’t allowed to read and would be killed if caught learning. I thought about the blacks who actually died for people like me to go to schools that costs thousands of dollars a year…and I inhaled deeply…looked around and told God “thank you.”
Perhaps Cosby wanted to do the same…undisturbed and taking in a private moment to thank God.

            Bill Cosby was born in 1937, so that would make him about 72 years old today, compared to my 30 years of life here in earth. At that age, perhaps a man simply wants to be left alone. One of my friends from college referred to him as a “sellout” after reading the note, but I couldn’t bring myself to agree with that. That man has done so much for us and given so much time, it would never be just to discredit his legacy. Many know that he is also a member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, like myself. He spoke at a commencement at West Chester University a few years ago and some of my frat brothers initiated our fraternity call to Bill, to have him simply wave and not reciprocate it back. It was totally understood. After all, he was Bill Cosby-he had legendary status and was exempt from the ridicule of childish things. But was Bill Cosby genuinely disinterested in meeting the students of Cheyney University, who would love to be able to achieve a mere fraction of what he’s done? Or were things taken out of proportion? Sometimes it’s not what you say, but how you say it. When the Philadelphia Eagles make an appearance at a school, does the principal request that the students “do not ask for autographs, pictures, or rush upon them for autographs?!?”

            I truly would like to know what you guys think. Am I Crazy’?

“The true hypocrite is the one who ceases to perceive his deception, the one who lies with sincerity” -Andre Gidi

…These Are The Random Thoughts Of Ronald Gray…