By Ryan Velez
The Black community lost one of its iconic voices recently with the passing of Dick Gregory at the age of 84. Many people have come to know him over the years as a figure who managed to convey his political ideals to audiences both Black and white through his career in comedy. Equally important was his devotion to activism, which culminated in moments like him speaking for two uninterrupted hours at “Freedom Day” in 1963, which was a rally to drive Black voter registration, as well as unsuccessfully running for President in 1968 as a write-in candidate. Black Enterprise calls attention to an often-missed part of Gregory’s life—as a businessman.
Dick Gregory has long been an advocate of healthy eating as well as a vegan, which may be remembered by some through his Gregory’s Slim-Safe Bahamian Diet—a meal replacement powder to help with weight loss. What some may not realize is that this powder earned Gregory a small fortune, as reported by Black Enterprise in 1989. That same year, he would purchase a beachfront hotel in Florida for $7 million to use as a health, nutrition, and weight-loss center. The hotel buy would be part of a larger expansion of Dick Gregory Enterprises, which at one point averaged a revenue of $30,000 per day just from Slim-Safe sales alone. The idea for the hotel would be part of his vision to offer luxury accommodations to people who wanted to improve their health.
“In order to reach Americans, you have to do it with glamour,” he said in an interview with Black Enterprise. “I want to glamorize health and nutrition the same way we have [glamorized] athletics and sports.” His business interests would be part of a larger initiative to help African-Americans become healthier. “We have got to make health an issue in America,” he said. “We have to make teenagers just as excited drinking juice as they are about buying a pair of Michael Jordan’s tennis shoes.”
In the wake of Gregory’s passing, many names in the activist community have remembered the multifaceted talents and work he showed throughout his life.
“Dick Gregory was an activist and creative genius who knew the struggle for liberation could only take flight if prominent individuals like himself leveraged their considerable influence, and joined the masses on the front lines of the dismantling of Jim Crow,” said NAACP Board Chairman Leon W. Russell in a statement. “We have lost one of the most important voices of social justice vigilance in the last fifty years. His intellectual style of humor defied racist stereotypes, eschewed buffoonery, and provided white America rare insight into the unquestionable humanity of black people,” added Russell.