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Dick Gregory to keynote 26th Annual MLK statewide kickoff

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Posted: Monday, December 5, 2011 2:45 pm

Legendary activist, comedian, nutritionist and St. Louis native Dick Gregory will serve as the keynote speaker for the 26th annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. State Celebration Kick-off Program for Missouri.

The event will take place on Saturday, January 7,2012, in the main auditorium of Harris-Stowe State University.

Gregory began performing comedy in the mid-1950s while serving in the Army. He entered the national comedy scene in 1961, when Chicago's Playboy Club - at the direct request of Hugh Hefner - booked him as a replacement for comedian "Professor" Irwin Corey. Following a successful run at the club, he was offered a contract extension. By 1962, Gregory was hit amongst white and black audiences and had become a headliner, selling out nightclubs, making numerous national television appearances and recording popular comedy albums.

He eventually joined comedians like Nipsey Russell, Bill Cosby and

Godfrey Cambridge in their quest to dismiss any stereotypes about black characters. Gregory's ironic and satirical style focused on current

events and racial issues of the time. From an early age, Gregory

demonstrated a strong sense of social justice.

While a student at Sumner High School in St. Louis he led a March protesting segregated schools. Later, inspired by the work of leaders such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and organizations such as the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), Gregory took part in the Civil Rights Movement and used his celebrity status to draw attention to such issues as segregation and disfranchisement.

When local Mississippi governments stopped distributing federal food surpluses to poor Blacks in areas where SNCC was encouraging voter registration, Gregory chartered a plane to bring in several tons of food. He participated in SNCC's voter registration drives and sit-ins to protest segregation, most notably at a restaurant franchise in downtown Atlanta, Georgia.

Gregory's autobiography, "Nigger," was published in 1963 prior to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and became a top bestseller. Over the decades, it has sold in excess of 7 million copies. His choice for the title was explained in the forward, where he wrote a note to his mother stating, "Whenever you hear the word nigger, you'll know they're advertising my book."

Through the 1960s, Gregory spent more time on social issues and less

time on performing. He participated in marches and parades to support a

range of causes, including opposition to the Vietnam War, world hunger,

and drug abuse. In addition, Gregory fasted in protest more than 60

times, once in Iran, where he fasted and prayed in an effort to urge the

Ayatollah Khomeini to release American embassy staff who had been taken

hostage.

Gregory's experiences have made him well versed on a variety of relevant

topics impacting Americans today. He will enlighten an audience of more

than 1,200 at this year's MLK celebration, themed Strength, Sacrifice

and Service: Empowering a New Generation. The program will begin

promptly at 6:30 p.m. This annual event is free and open to the public.Dick Gregory to keynote MLK statewide kickoff

 

 

Legendary activist, comedian, nutritionist and St. Louis native Dick Gregory will serve as the keynote speaker for the 26th annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. State Celebration Kick-off Program for Missouri.

The event will take place on Saturday, January 7,2012, in the main auditorium of Harris-Stowe State University.

Gregory began performing comedy in the mid-1950s while serving in the

Army. He entered the national comedy scene in 1961, when Chicago's

Playboy Club - at the direct request of Hugh Hefner - booked him as a

replacement for comedian "Professor" Irwin Corey. Following a successful

run at the club, he was offered a contract extension. By 1962, Gregory

was hit amongst white and black audiences and had become a headliner,

selling out nightclubs, making numerous national television appearances

and recording popular comedy albums.

He eventually joined comedians like Nipsey Russell, Bill Cosby and

Godfrey Cambridge in their quest to dismiss any stereotypes about black

characters. Gregory's ironic and satirical style focused on current

events and racial issues of the time. From an early age, Gregory

demonstrated a strong sense of social justice. While a student at Sumner

High School in St. Louis he led a March protesting segregated schools.

Later, inspired by the work of leaders such as Dr. Martin Luther King

Jr. and organizations such as the Student Nonviolent Coordinating

Committee (SNCC), Gregory took part in the Civil Rights Movement and

used his celebrity status to draw attention to such issues as

segregation and disfranchisement. When local Mississippi governments

stopped distributing federal food surpluses to poor Blacks in areas

where SNCC was encouraging voter registration, Gregory chartered a plane

to bring in several tons of food. He participated in SNCC's voter

registration drives and sit-ins to protest segregation, most notably at

a restaurant franchise in downtown Atlanta, Georgia. Only later did

Gregory disclose that he held stock in the chain.

Gregory's autobiography, "Nigger," was published in 1963 prior to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and became a top bestseller. Over the decades, it has sold in excess of 7 million copies. His choice for the title was explained in the forward, where he wrote a note to his mother stating, "Whenever you hear the word nigger, you'll know they're advertising my book."

Through the 1960s, Gregory spent more time on social issues and less

time on performing. He participated in marches and parades to support a

range of causes, including opposition to the Vietnam War, world hunger,

and drug abuse. In addition, Gregory fasted in protest more than 60

times, once in Iran, where he fasted and prayed in an effort to urge the

Ayatollah Khomeini to release American embassy staff who had been taken

hostage.

Gregory's experiences have made him well versed on a variety of relevant

topics impacting Americans today. He will enlighten an audience of more

than 1,200 at this year's MLK celebration, themed Strength, Sacrifice

and Service: Empowering a New Generation. The program will begin

promptly at 6:30 p.m. This annual event is free and open to the public.

 

 

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