Sunday, August 20, 2017


I was in the military when Dick Gregory was becoming famous. I only knew him through his appearances on TV, but he had already changed the entire game for not just stand-up comedians of any kind, but the entire TV landscape as well. Because he addressed directly the still legal racism in the South as well as the de facto segregation and oppression in the North. And made his audiences, and me, laugh doing it.

Then in September of 1964, the month after I married my first wife (rest her soul), while I was still in the service, his autobiography came out with its challenging title and I immediately bought it and read it out loud to my new wife as an introduction to my taste and concerns and beliefs. She had marched for Civil Rights and had friends who had gone South for the voter registration campaign who had been beaten and even killed, so we were on the same page.

I was so struck by this book, I wrote my first and only fan letter. I had already been moved to action years before by other examples of courage and wisdom and leadership in The Civil Rights movement, but for me Gregory pulled all the various strands of the drive to end segregation and systemic racism and even in-your-heart racism together in a unique and accessible, and ultimately tough, way that moved me to even more of a commitment to the cause.
And as seen in the quote on the paperback copy above he did it all with a cutting edge humor that was revolutionary at the time. Richard Pryor and George Carlin, and so many others, might have become comedians, but not the kind of comedians they are now known as without the example of Dick Gregory. In later years he added other kinds of causes to his activism, like animal rights etc. but for me he will always be the Dick Gregory who cut through the miasma of 1950s repression and conservatism to tell the truth to "white" people from "the establishment" to the streets, and some of us heard it.
Condolences to his family, friends and fans. May he Rest In Peace and Power.

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