For nearly seven hours, Dick Gregory’s family and friends paid tribute to him at a funeral that proved to be a celebration of life and love.
Having touched millions during his 84 years of life, Gregory had such an enormous life before he died on 19 August 2017.
Gregory was a pioneering comedian and civil rights activist. He took on race with layered, nuanced humour during the turbulent 1960s.
Held at the City of Praise Family Ministries in Landover, Maryland, his funeral service had footage Gregory’s documentary ‘I Am Dick Gregory’.
There were also remarks by the children of Malcolm X, Dr. Martin Luther King, Medgar Evers and Richard Pryor. A musical tribute by Gregory’s daughter Ayanna was followed by a musical tribute by India Arie. Minister Louis Farrakhan also had a eulogy for the comic whilst Stevie Wonder performed for the attendees.
Minister Farrakhan said: “Dick walked amongst us, but he always let his eyes focus on the universe. The God who created all of this can’t be pigeonholed. We are immature in our religious expressions. These things are satanic and cause humans to fight each other when we belong to the oneness of the universal creator”.
Born in 1932 in St. Louis, Missouri, Gregory’s big break as a stand-up comedian came in the early 1960s. Known for his sophisticated humour that took on racial issues, he became a comedy headliner. He simultaneously became a trailblazer for other African-American comedians including Richard Pryor and Bill Cosby who also attended the funeral.
Gregory eventually ran for political office. In his later years, he worked as a lecturer and pursued his interests in health and fitness.
His talent as a comedian helped bring national attention to efforts at integration and social equality for black people.