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Reported by April V. Taylor
Legendary comedian, actor, and activist Dick Gregory is one of the 30 honorees recently announced by The Walk of Fame Selection Committee who will receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Committee chair Maureen Schultz states, “We Know that the new selections represent the best of the entertainment industry and will be a great addition to the Walk of Fame for both the Hollywood community and fans from around the world who visit Hollywood every year.”
Gregory has made his mark by using comedy and performance to convey his political message on civil rights to both black and white audiences. His social satire has helped transform the way many white Americans perceive black comedians. His career as a comedian began in the 1950s when he and other comedians such as Nipsey Russell, Bill Cosby, and Godfrey Cambridge all helped break the minstrel tradition to usher in a new era of black comedy. Gregory’s career took off when Hugh Hefner saw him perform at Herman Roberts Show Bar and hired him to work at the Chicago Playboy Club.
The 1960s saw Gregory become active in the civil rights movement, protesting the Vietnam War, economic reform, anti-drug issues, and other social justice issues. In a 2010 interview with Ebony, Gregory explained his shift from comedy to activism stating, “Even as a young boy, I wanted to do something important, but there was no particular thing that inspired me. It was a person. That person was Medgar Evers…After he received word that I had gone to a few SCLC (Southern Christian Leadership Conference) rallies, he called me and said, ‘Dick Gregory. I need you to come to Jackson and march with me’…The nightclubs, the money, the jokes all came secondary after that. I am still more inclined to go and march for a young man wrongfully killed in Harlem than do a gig at a university. Once the movement is in you, it’s there. It never leaves.” He has been arrested several times and also posed several hunger strikes. After running for mayor of Chicago in 1966 and for president in 1968, Gregory all but abandoned his comedy career by the early 1970s to focus solely on his political interests which he still pursues.
Gregory also became a health food activist supporting a raw, vegan diet. He credits the diet with keeping his lymphoma, which he was diagnosed with in 1999, in remission.