A Culinary Reflection of Dick Gregory 1932-2017
A childhood friend emailed me yesterday to inform me about the passing of activists Dick Gregory. My friend knew that I had interviewed Gregory for my first book Hog and Hominy and specifically for the chapter Food Rebels. I profiled of Gregory, his mentor Doctor Alvenia Fulton, as well as Malcolm X, Elijah Muhammad, and Muhammed Ali all of which I defined as food rebels. Culinary activists within African American communities who condemned the unhealthy elements within their ethnic group’s eating traditions and championed holistic eating before the term had been popular and a multimillion dollar industry developed around it. I knew about Dick Gregory (1932-2017) before doing research for my first book because of the influence he had on my father a Sing Sing prison guard turned vegetarian in the 1970s. Indirectly Gregory influenced me. My high School, Croton Harmon is located just up the street from the village of Croton on Hudson, New York a suburb just north of New York City. School administrators had an open campus policy that permitted students to purchase food in the village. The fact that the school cut the hot lunch program that most other area schools had also facilitated the daily parade of students into the village in search of good but cheap eats. Now my situation was problematic to say the least because my father took on the task of making my lunch instead of forking over five dollars like allot of the parents of my classmates did. Here’s where Gregory came in: During the 1970s my dad listened to him on the radio talking about eating to live instead of living to eat as he sat in his tower as correctional officer at Sing Sing prison. Gregory inspired my dad to make me lunches with fruits and vegetables in them as well as sandwiches on whole grain bread, and carob covered Tiger Milk protein bars. As an assistant professor of history at Morehouse College in Atlanta, I later had the opportunity to hear Gregory speak in person. To this day I’ve yet to see a speaker be so effective using the strategy of comedy as a jab to set up a right hook of reality to the injustices at home and abroad. Mr. Gregory you will be missed and I want to thank you for being so generous with your time and intellect.