Dick Gregory, pioneering US comedian and activist, dies aged 84

Gregory used his humour to transgres racial barriers in the 1960 s and even ran for president in 1968

Dick Gregory, the black comedian who broke down racial roadblocks in the 1960 s and used humour to spread messages of social justice, has died. He was 84.

Gregorys son, Christian, said his father died late on Saturday in Washington, DC after having been hospitalised for about a week. He had suffered a severe bacterial infection.

The family posted a message on his Twitter account saying it was with enormous sadness that they confirmed the death of their father, a comedic legend.

Dick Gregory (@ IAmDickGregory)

It is with enormous sadness that the Gregory family confirms that their parent, comedic legend https :// t.co/ UL9ATwwBxv

August 20, 2017

Gregory was one of the first black comedians to find mainstream success with white audiences in the early 1960 s. He rose from an impoverished childhood in St. Louis to become a celebrated satirist who deftly commented upon racial divisions at the sunrise 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, ride in the back of the bus, and get paid $5,000 a week just for talking about it?

Gregorys sharp commentary soon resulted him into civil right activism, where his ability to woo audiences through humor helped bring national attention to fledgling efforts at integration and social equality for blacks.

The Rev Al Sharpton said on Twitter that he had known Gregory since he was 16 and mourned a true, committed, and consistent freedom fighter.

Reverend Al Sharpton (@ TheRevAl)

I’ve known Dick Gregory since I was 16 years old. A true, committed, and consistent freedom fighter. May he Rest In Peace. pic.twitter.com/ 4OelJucrbF

August 20, 2017

Democratic senator Cory Booker of New Jersey tweeted: Dick Gregorys unflinching integrity& gallantry, inspired us to battle, live, laugh& love despite it all.

Actress and comedian Whoopi Goldberg said on Twitter: About being black in America Dick Gregory has passed away, Condolences to his family and to us who wont have his insight 2 lean on R.I.P

Whoopi Goldberg (@ WhoopiGoldberg)

About being black in America Dick Gregory has passed away, Condolence to his family and to us who won’t have his insight 2 lean on
R.I.P

August 20, 2017

In a varied career, Gregory briefly attempted political office, running unsuccessfully for mayor of Chicago in 1966 and US president in 1968, when he got 200,000 referendums as the Peace and Freedom party candidate.

In the late 60 s, he befriended John Lennon and was among the voices heard on Lennons anti-war anthem Give Peace a Chance, recorded in the Montreal hotel room where Lennon and Yoko Ono were staging a bed-in for peace.

An admirer of Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr, Gregory embraced nonviolence and became a vegetarian and marathon runner.

The King Center tweeted that Gregory had elicited us to think and to change. And he made us laugh, too.

The King Center (@ TheKingCenter)

He elicited us to suppose and to change. And he made us laugh, too. Rest, our dear elder, #DickGregory. pic.twitter.com/ LxSgYMhI8K

August 20, 2017

Besides politics, Gregory preached about the transformative the terms of reference of prayer and good health. Once an overweight smoker and drinker, he became a trim, energetic proponent of liquid dinners and raw food diets. In the late 1980 s, he developed and distributed products for the popular Slim-Safe Bahamian Diet.

When diagnosed with lymphoma in 2000, he opposed it with herbs, exercise and vitamins. It went into remission a few years later.

He took a infringe from performing in slapstick clubs, saying the alcohol and smoking in the clubs were unhealthy, and focused on lecturing and writing more than a dozen books, including an autobiography and a memoir.

Gregory ran without solid food for weeks to draw attention to a wide range of causes, including Middle East peace, American hostages in Iran, animal rights, police barbarism, the Equal Rights Amendment for women and to support pop singer Michael Jackson when he was charged with sexual molestation in 2004.

We believed I was going to be a great athlete, and we were wrong, and I supposed I was going to be a great entertainer, and that wasnt it either. Im going to be an American Citizen. First class, he once said.

Dolores Childs (@ Queensrain2 26)

Legends in Our Own Period … Rest in Peace Muhammad Ali, Richard Pryor and Dick Gregory. pic.twitter.com/ HqUy1hOZsU

August 20, 2017

Richard Claxton Gregory was born in 1932, the second of six children. His father abandoned the family, leaving his mother poor and fighting. Though the family often went without food or energy, Gregorys intellect and hard work rapidly earned him honors, and he attended the mostly white Southern Illinois University.
In high school I was opposing being violated and on relief, he wrote in 1963. But in college, I was fighting being Negro.

He started winning talent competitions for his slapstick, which he continued in the Army. After he was discharged, he struggled to break into the standup circuit in Chicago, working odd undertakings as a postal clerk and vehicle washer to survive. His breakthrough came in 1961, when he was asked to fill in for another comedian at Chicagos Playboy Club. His audience, largely white Southern tycoons, heckled him with racist gibes, but he stuck it out for hours and left them howling.

That job was supposed to be a one-night gig, but lasted two months and landed him a profile in Time magazine and a spot on The Tonight Show.

Vogue magazine, in February 1962, likened him to Will Rogers and Fred Allen: bright and funny and topical …[ with] a way of making the editorials in the New York Times seem the cinch stuff from which smash night-club routines are rightfully made.

AMERAFRICAN (@ TheAMERAFRICAN)

Dick Gregory stimulated us giggle, attained us suppose& attained us reflect on the Truth of our condition — one of a kind and unapologetically Black. #Hero pic.twitter.com/ eku2KQYFLg

August 20, 2017

Ive got to go up there as an individual first, a Negro second, he said in Phil Bergers book The Last Chuckle: The World of Stand-up Comics. Ive got to be a colored funny human , not a funny colored man.

His political passions were never far from his mind and they hurt his slapstick career. The nation was grappling with the civil right movement, and it was not at all clear that racial integration could be achieved. At protest marches, he was repeatedly beaten and jailed.

He remained active on the slapstick scene until recently, where reference is fell ill and cancelled a show in San Jose, California, followed by a 15 August appearance in Atlanta. On social media, he wrote that he felt energized by the messages from his well-wishers, and said he was looking to get back on stage because he had a lot to say about the racial tension brought on by the collect of loathe groups in Virginia.
We have so much work still to be done, the ugly reality on the news this weekend demonstrates simply that, he wrote.

He is survived by his wife, Lillian, and 10 children.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

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