First Person

Dick Gregory: Remembering a legendary figure

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Dick Gregory running in the Food Run with Muhammed Ali and Fast for a World Harvest founder, Nathan Gray.

‘What impressed me most was his tremendous, positive attitude.’

Liz Carty is the Organizing and Alliances Manager, Policy and Advocacy, at Oxfam.

I am so saddened by the death of Dick Gregory. One of the great civil rights activists of our time, he was an outstanding comedian who never held back in speaking truth to power.

Gregory had many causes that he dedicated his time to, and Oxfam’s mission was one of them. He was a central figure in Oxfam’s first Fast for a World Harvest campaign, in which a quarter of a million people participated. Families, places of worship, businesses, schools, and universities organized fasts, and donated the money they would have spent on food to Oxfam’s anti-poverty work. Thanks to Gregory’s participation, Walter Cronkite covered Oxfam on the “CBS Evening News.” Oxfam raised nearly one million dollars that season.

In 1976, the year of our nation’s bicentennial, Gregory ran across the entire country, from Los Angeles to New York City, in a benefit he dubbed the Food Run. Donations went to Oxfam and a Catholic world hunger organization. Muhammad Ali was also involved, and joined Gregory when he entered Saint Louis, Gregory’s place of birth. They were joined by Oxfam’s Fast for a World Harvest  founder, Nathan Gray.  All three are pictured above.

Many years ago in my early days at Oxfam, I had the privilege of interviewing Dick Gregory for a publication we did on Oxfam’s “Famous Fasters.” What impressed me most was his tremendous, positive attitude. In talking about being part of Oxfam’s Fast, he said:

“A fast is like going into your basement that’s dark—with a light—and then if two of you join me, the light gets brighter. Well, that’s what happens with fasting. It’s like a whole lot of people lighting their lights on a dark area — and it eventually wipes the darkness out. Think of what this energy is doing—it’s feeding people. That’s what Oxfam is about. It’s about life.”

In hard times–when I, for one, seek stories of inspiration and light–the life and legacy of Dick Gregory helps me go forward, compels me to act positively, and gives me hope. Facebook Twitter Instagram YouTube Google+