The first Black comedian to perform before a white audience, Dick Gregory died yesterday at age 84. Born Richard Claxton Gregory on October 12, 1932, he was an activist, comedian, cancer survivor, one of eleven children, husband, father and grandfather; Gregory was an extraordinary man and humanitarian. I had the pleasure of meeting him as he was a dear friend of my godmother, the late Rev. Willie T. Barrow. He was humble and down-to-earth. I am a better person because he was never too busy to talk to anyone who needed his help. I remember being able to talk to him several times at Cathy Hughes’ Washington D.C. WOL radio station where he had a talk show in the late 1980s; and over the past 30 years was a frequent guest. Here’s a link from a WOL show two years ago:
Mark From Anaheim, Dick Gregory. The Gloves are Off! [PODCAST]
More information in the following Washington Post video and article:
Just as Ghandi did, Gregory occasionally went on hunger strikes. These hunger strikes called attention to many of America’s injustices to her poor, Black, brown and Native Americans. This link describes his 1968 hunger strike:
From the tribute by the Guardian:
Gregory was one of the first black comedians to find mainstream success with white audiences in the early 1960s. He rose from an impoverished childhood in St. Louis to become a celebrated satirist who deftly commented upon racial divisions at the dawn of the civil rights movement.
“Where else in the world but America,” he joked, “could I have lived in the worst neighborhoods, attended the worst schools, rode in the back of the bus, and get paid $5,000 a week just for talking about it?”
Read the full tribute at: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/aug/20/dick-gregory-pioneering-us-comedian-and-activist-dies-aged-84
A Wikipedia excerpt says:
“Gregory gave the keynote Address for Black History Month at Bryn Mawr College on February 28, 2013. His take-away message to the students was to never accept injustice.
Once I accept injustice, I become injustice. For example, paper mills give off a terrible stench. But the people who work there don’t smell it. Remember, Dr. King was assassinated when he went to work for garbage collectors. To help them as workers to enforce their rights. They couldn’t smell the stench of the garbage all around them anymore. They were used to it. They would eat their lunch out of a brown bag sitting on the garbage truck. One day, a worker was sitting inside the back of the truck on top of the garbage, and got crushed to death because no one knew he was there.”
I am soooo excited that I found this 1990’s photo of Dick Gregory, myself, and my Godmother, Rev. Willie Taplin Barrow in the 1990’s in Chicago. Gregory and my godmother (of Rainbow PUSH) were dear friends.