Over the weekend, we lost a very powerful and influential man. Dick Gregory died on August 19, 2017. Gregory was a man of many talents. He was a renowned comedian, author, and most importantly, a Civil Rights Activist. There really is no better way to honor a person than to help tell their story. No one can tell Dick Gregory’s story better than he can, but would like to pay homage the best way we know how.


Dick Gregory was born Richard Claxton Gregory on October 12, 1932. Growin up in St. Louis, Missouri without his father in the picture, Gregory had to learn just how tough life can be. Gregory’s mother was left to take care of him and was only able to do so with the government assistance that she received coupled with the extremely low wages she made as a maid.


The Gregories hardly had food and when it came time for the electricity bill to be paid, funds had usually been depleted. Due to the lack of money circulating through the Gregory household, Dick Gregory’s clothes were never the best. During his youth, other kids would make fun of his clothes and would often times beat him up.


As a form of defense, Gregory did not fight back with his fists, but instead fought with his wit. He began telling jokes and cracking on the kids who bullied him. The jokes that Gregory told were the kinds of jokes that you tell in order to shut someone up. Because of his comedy chops, Gregory was always able to shut those bullies up.

As time went on, Dick Gregory began fighting for civil rights. He became an activist at a young age when he led a protest against the segregated school system in St. Louis. Gregory was not a star student when it came to academics. He was, however, a star athlete when it came to track. Because of his outstanding athleticism and with the help of a Summer High School teacher, Gregory earned a scholarship to Southern Illinois University, Carbondale.


Just as surely as something good happens, something always comes along to take it away. Shortly after enrolling into college on his track scholarship, Gregory was drafted by the U.S. Army in 1954. The fact that the army prevented him from earning an education was not the worst thing in the world.


Since he was always telling jokes, Gregory was encouraged by other soldiers and officers to enter some talent shows. His comedy was so great that he won a number of competitions. Gregory’s experience performing standup in the army paved the way for the rest of his career.


After serving two years in the army, Gregory was able to return to Southern Illinois University and continue his education. He soon realized, however, that the school couldn’t care less about his education, but were instead more interested in him running track for them. After realizing this, Dick Gregory dropped out of college.


After he dropped out college, Gregory headed for Chicago where he pursued comedy. While working in the post office, Gregory would spend his nights performing at Black comedy clubs alongside other up and coming comedians, Bill Cosby and Nipsey Russell.


Gregory performed a newer style of comedy. He would perform satirical skits that directly addressed racism and his political views. Shortly after he began performing, Hugh Hefner requested that Gregory fill in for another comedian at the Playboy Club. This particular performanced earned Gregory a room full of laughs, national recognition, and a gig performing standup at the Playboy Club.


Dick Gregory worked at the Playboy Club for a year before he took a break from comedy. He focused his time and attention toward fighting against social injustices. Gregory was very vocal against racism, world hunger, dictatorship, and the Vietnam War. Many of his protests manifested in the form of him fasting. Gregory had fasted a total of 65 times before he became emaciated. Although dangerous to his health, his fasting proved to be effective in his struggle against injustice.

Throughout his life, Dick Gregory has established himself as a comedian, an author, an activist, and a politician. He fought on the front lines for justice and equality, not only for his people, but for all underserved and discriminated communities. He was even a write-in candidate for the Freedom and Peace Party during the 1968 presidential election. Although he was successful in gaining votes, he and the Democratic candidate Hubert Humphrey lost to Richard Nixon.


He faced financial hardships throughout his career as well as public scrutiny from his struggles against many issues. Gregory remained a vocal civil rights activist through the 1980s, 1990s, and well into the 2000s up until Saturday August 19, 2017. Dick Gregory was 84 years old. We would like to thank Mr. Gregory for all of his years in the fight against injustice and inequality. He helped pave the way for all members of the Black community. Thank you, Dick Gregory.

Ramiro Alexander-Duchesne is a CSUITEMUSIC Blogger

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