Dick, Inspires Me…

A couple of weeks ago, I was fortunate to have tuned-in on the right day to a local radio station as one of the guests was the legendary justice and equality champion Dick Gregory.

Although Dick was born in 1932 in America (four years before my mum actually), it is food for thought that in 2012 one of the aspects of my professional life is as a Social Justice and Equality Ambassador.

Eighty years on, how much has the world really changed with regards to issues like discrimination and so forth especially with me doing now what Dick started doing so long ago?

Only today, I have remembered the torture and murder of Matthew Shepard in America in 1998 for being gay.

Dick also intertwines his equality work with his professional life as a comedian, of which I strive to do with my work within the arts – although, I am nowhere as funny as him.

That said, many of us Scousers like myself believe that we are naturally funny! I’ll let you decide?

I too as a Police Detective, chose to fight crime and protect people something Dick does himself back in the USA – although, not as an officer. An ocean and decades apart, yet in many ways he is an older version of myself and better looking.

I didn’t also know that, Dick has eleven children and yes I’m the last child of 11. It goes to show, you’re never too old to learn.

I first became aware of Dick actually a few months ago. As a writer, I do a lot of research for my work and one of my studies was and still is the playwright (among many other things) James Baldwin.

James was born in America in 1924 and worked as an novelist, essayist, playwright, poet and social critic. One of his plays I decided to study was The Amen Corner, about the role of the church in African America and the effect of poverty born of racial prejudice. James like me, was gay too.

Like Dick, I am finding so much in common with many men of colour who have gone before me. Although born in different places at different times, many of our experiences are shared. Bayard Rustin is another American great, a black gay man who was a friend and leader along with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. fighting for civil rights and gay rights through non-violence.

As I get older, I begin to understand more how people like those above have shaped the world and made things better for me and people of colour. They have paved the path for equality, and some have paid the greatest price for this like Dr. King who was assassinated.

As I researched James Baldwin, I came across a video of him sitting next to Dick Gregory in London back in 1969. The film is inspirational, with the two men speaking about the black experience in America and how it related to Britain and the Caribbean.

When I listened to Dick Gregory speak on the radio, it sent shivers down my spine.

Turning 80 today on October 12, everything Dick said on the show I got and understood. Why?

I have never met him or know him, but yet what he was saying and has said I felt. He spoke with passion and integrity and I must admit, he has me hooked.

The black experience is a shared and unique one, with it not mattering where you were born or indeed in what century.

If this is not the case, how can a Scouser like me born in the same city as The Beatles have so much in common with a man born in St. Louis, Missouri before the start of the Second World War have so many similarities?

Happy 80th Birthday Mr Gregory.

This has been a… Dick, inspires me, ‘View from the Bottom’.

Rest in Peace, Max x.

Live Healthy, Laugh Often & Love Yourself!

Published by My Mum. Copyright © Kevin Maxwell Film, Media & Performance 2012.