Monday, April 22, 2013

Dick Gregory: My Mentor and Role Model


By Norris McDonald

I've met many celebrities in my life, from presidents to Hollywood, but my favorite is Dick Gregory.  Why?  Because of who Dick is and the way he carries himself.  Being an Inside The Beltway creature, I've met people over the years who have trouble walking through regular doorways because their heads are so big.  Yet Dick has never exhibited any hint of being overly impressed with himself.  In fact, he goes out of his way to make you feel good about yourself.  And Dick isn't even a politician.  Politicians are expert at this too, but you know they are acting. 

Dick Gregory is the Godfather of Environmental Justice.  Dick was out talking about the environment before the environmental movement even began.   Dick was ahead of Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On" album that featured an ecology theme.  Dick was one of the first black megastars and he could have developed his initial success into "The Cosby Show" or "The Flip Wilson Show" or any of a number of other projects.  Instead, Dick wanted to be free to express himself however he wanted to.  And in my opinion, such freedom is worth the price of admission.

When I almost died from asthma in 1991, Dick helped me get credit at a health food store (that stuff is expensive).  He advised me on nutrition.  He would give me rides home (in a Rolls Royce). It would be funny when we would stop at a light and someone would pull up to us and say, "you look like Dick Gregory."  And Dick would respond, "I am Dick Gregory."  And we all would bust out laughing.  These are priceless moments.  And Dick shared them freely.   Dick would let me hang out with him.  He would say, "come on and ride with me Norris to the airport to pick up a package."  And off we would go to Dulles Airport.  If I was driving my car, Dick would entertain my son play with his feet while he was sitting in his car seat.  He would slip a few dollars to the homeless people we passed on the street.  Dick showed me how it SHOULD be done. 

Dick was talking nutrition to black folks when the thought of eating as much raw food as possible was laughed at by our peeps. Dick got me into juicers and fasting and colonics. Dick had me taking 40 supplement pills per day at one point.  When I showed doubt about this regimen, he got his wife, whom he called Lil (Lillian) on the phone to "tell Norris we've been doing this for years."  

One of my favorite times with Dick was when he discovered a black scientist who could 'turn water gasoline' (into a synthetic fuel).  One evening, right across the street from the Howard Inn, we used my car as the test vehicle.  Dick had his astrologer there to read the signs.  Walter Fauntroy was there too.  The unit worked in powering my car and the exhaust was water vapor.  My guess is it was some sort of hydrogen derived fuel becuase its waste production after such combustion is water vapor. 

Dick is 80 years old now and still going strong.  Thank you Dick.  Thank you for being you and sharing yourself with me.  When I had to downsize my ambitions in response to asthma and single parenthood, Dick showed me how I could still express myself and have a very good time doing it.  Dick also showed me how to speak truth to power.  After my dear late father, I could not have a better professional mentor and role model than Dick Gregory.

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