Passing the Torch…Rest Well Richard “Dick” Gregory By Cassiette West-Williams

LAS VEGAS – JANUARY 22: Comedian Dick Gregory arrives at the 15th annual Trumpet Awards at the Bellagio January 22, 2007 in Las Vegas, Nevada. The awards show is a celebration of African-American achievement. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

As the tributes and accolades poured in for acclaimed renaissance man Richard “Dick” Gregory, one Twitter writer stood out from the others. Known internationally as Dick Gregory, the famous comedian was known for being a crusader and activist for people of color, the disenfranchised and those who suffered. Gregory was a multi-dimensional individual, who emerged as a cross-over, mainstream comedian, entrepreneur, freedom fighter, actor, conspiracy theorist and social critic about the world. His son, Christian Gregory, released a statement, explaining that his father had died in a hospital in Washington, D.C. last month (August 19, 2017) at the age of 84 years-old.

Young artist and humanitarian, Chance the Rapper, paid homage to Gregory by writing, “RIP to the dude who always did right by his people. He made bravery and integrity cool.”

Chance recently challenged Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner, for his cuts in education for children. Chance donated $2 million dollars of his own money to Chicago Public Schools (CPS) and youth organizations, in addition to donating more than 10,000 book bags at a local, Back to School parade.

Much like Gregory, Chance is not afraid to be a man of courage, conviction and compassion. Much like Gregory, Chance doesn’t care who is on board with his decisions, and ventures out as a trailblazer for people and children who cannot speak for themselves. Just like Gregory, Chance grabs headlines for his sincerity and kindness towards people of color. Chance’s gratitude for Dick Gregory was like a son thanking his elder for passing the torch of knowledge and experience down to the next generation.

Gregory was the man who was not afraid to take a stand, march at the White House, protest for several causes, challenge medical findings, create nutrition choices and be disciplined enough to have a long-term fast, so that the world could progress. When faced with a promising mainstream career, which Playboy founder Hugh Hefner, paved the way for him, he chose to use his humor to attack racial platforms and ignorance that still exists in this country. Gregory was not afraid to trade in his celebrity, Hollywood career for an unpaid, civil rights journey, which would last him more than 50 years. The father of 10 children, Gregory was married to his wife, Lillian, for more than 50 years. He often left his family to participate in causes around the world.

Gregory was among the first comedic genius to ‘“tell it like it is” and the let the chips fall where they may. He was not afraid to be politically incorrect and called a spade black. He did not apologize for telling his truth and used his celebrity to raise funds or influence a change among people. Gregory changed himself from a chain-smoking, overweight comedian to a frail and holistically cleansed individual, wo beat cancer by sticking to his own regiment of exercise, juice, fruit and vitamins.

It was Gregory who taught boxing great Muhammad Ali, how to regain his strength from eating correctly (almost as a vegan). Joe Jackson, the father of Michael Jackson, called Gregory to work with his son’s failing health and trusted him to bring Michael to the hospital, when he refused to listen to his family members’. It was Gregory’s image that singer Bob Marley and preacher, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. embraced. It was Gregory, who joined Peoria’s own Richard Pryor, at the Kennedy Center Honors in 1998, and cheered on his friend’s acclaim. Gregory did not mind being in the background, because he had nurtured the talents of Pryor, George Lopez, Chris Rock and others. Stevie Wonder joined Gregory and his wife in February 2015, as he received a star on The Hollywood Walk of Fame.

So while he wrote two books, recorded several “albums” and appeared as a guest on many talk shows, most of his colleagues and others, know Gregory for his service and unselfish love for his people. Here was a humble, St. Louis, Missouri man who used track and field to set records in high school and college (Southern Illinois University), but worked in the mail room to feed his own family. Here is man who was arrested by the Secret Service for picketing at the Sudanese Embassy, for the rights of his African brothers and sisters.

Here was a man who taught people how to love, serve and give to those who need it most. I believe that our ancestors are pleased. Warrior, rest well.

Research for this column was used from USA Today, The Guardian and YouTube.

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