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By: Roy Douglas Malonson, Publisher of African-American News & Issues & Author of column series We MUST Understand

Booker T. Washington once said that, “Success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome while trying to succeed.” With that being stated I would just like to convey that there is no comparison that will ever exist to parallel a 91-year-old White comedian to an 84-year old Black comedian. The obstacles, struggles and challenges presented amongst the cultural lines, could not possibly compare. To that regard, a true legendary and iconic comedian such as Dick Gregory, should have had either equal or even more respect publicized than his counterpart, Jerry Lewis who passed away a day after him.

According to Booker T. Washington’s measurement of success it is clear and uncut that the success of Dick Gregory heavily outweighed Jerry Lewis simply because of the stumbling blocks that Gregory had to overcome just to receive an ounce of fame. It is evident that a man of Jerry Lewis caliber would attribute success, if, for no other reason than the pigment of the color of his skin.

It was lines engineered by Dick Gregory such as: “I waited at the counter of a White restaurant for eleven years. When they finally integrated, they didn’t have what I wanted,” and “I never believed in Santa Claus because I knew no White dude would come into my neighborhood after dark,”; that assisted him with finding humor in his situation rather than allowing his circumstances to overtake him. Gregory once conveyed the fact that, “It was an unwritten law that Black comics were not permitted to work White nightclubs. You could sing and dance, but you couldn’t stand flat-footed and talk; that was a no-no.” In spite of knowing that he was in an unbalanced entertainment industry, he still never let it detour him.

WE MUST Understand that Dick Gregory was a powerful, witty and intelligent character who chose to make the best out of the dispensation and era he lived in. He did this at an attempt to uplift others who looked like him, during a harsh time of racial inequality. It was a pure ingenious gift to be able to make light out of, “being judged by the color of your skin”, rather than the “content of your character”, as the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., put it.

So overall, yes I must say that I was and am offended, being not only an African-American. But, also as being the publisher of a publication that thrives off of; highlighting and addressing current and historical realities affecting our communities. It bothered me terribly that no one is promoting Dick Gregory’s death in the fashion that they have and are promoting the death of Jerry Lewis.

Throughout the history of these United States the balance of mis-treatment between Blacks and Whites remain unbalanced, even now. It does not matter what type of contributions a person makes to society in this nation, if your skin isn’t White it is not going to get the Right amount of reverence that it truly deserves. I have found this statement to be true in all situations and I do not see it as a presentation of a prejudicial topic, but I am simply stating the truth.

The loss of Dick Gregory was a true loss for the African-American community and the nation as well. It is just a sad reality that this factor alone has not been as deserving as Jerry Lewis. It appears as though the death of Dick Gregory was like, yesterday’s news. The sad part about it is that the Black community even took part in promoting the death of Jerry Lewis, on a major scale as well. I have read many comments from influential Black people that have paid tributes to Jerry Lewis and have not uttered one word in respect to the passing of Dick Gregory. It ought to be a sin and a shame.

In his last interview with us as a publication which was about two months ago, Gregory just wanted to let everybody know who he is and what he has done. This is something that a man such as him, should have never have to do. Because Black History should be 24/7/365 and members, both young and old from our communities should already know who he is and what he has done. Nevertheless, my point is that after a Black legend passes on; it is up to the Black community to keep the memory and legacy of that person alive in our hearts and memory.

Dick Gregory, like Jerry Lewis was indeed a comedian as well. However the influence and impact that he left on record of things that he has done with and in the African-American community cannot stand parallel to the work of Jerry Lewis. It is clearly not a comparable match and the death of Jerry Lewis whether covered on mainstream media or otherwise should not have outweighed the coverage of our beloved Dick Gregory. During the height of the Civil Rights Movement, Gregory was one of the first African-Americans to perform at White clubs.

As it is, Jerry Lewis passed away on August 20 and was described as a comic icon. All types of complimentary adjectives and tributes adorn various media outlets, web pages and search engines in comparison to describing the death of Jerry Lewis. In contrast to Gregory who passed away on August 19, the simple words, comedian and civil rights activist are used to depict the character of a man who brought humor, truth and fought for justice and equality for the African-American community. Rest on Dick Gregory, for he will forever remain a true loss for our community…

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