R.I.P. Dick Gregory, 84, Groundbreaking Comedian, Civil Rights Activist and Nutrition Guru

Dick Gregory (photo via hollywoodreporter.com)

by Dennis McLellan via latimes.com

Dick Gregory, who became the first black stand-up comic to break the color barrier in major nightclubs in the early 1960s, a decade in which he satirized segregation and race relations in his act and launched his lifetime commitment to civil rights and other social justice issues, died Saturday. He was 84.

His death was confirmed on his official social media accounts by his family. “It is with enormous sadness that the Gregory family confirms that their father, comedic legend and civil rights activist Mr. Dick Gregory departed this earth tonight in Washington, DC.,” his son Christian Gregory wrote. Even before the confirmation from the family, Rev. Jesse Jackson, a longtime friend of Gregory’s, had memorialized him in a tweet: “He taught us how to laugh. He taught us how to fight. He taught us how to live. Dick Gregory was committed to justice. I miss him already.”

In a life that began in poverty in St. Louis during the Depression, the former Southern Illinois University track star became known as an author, lecturer, nutrition guru and self-described agitator who marched, ran and fasted to call attention to issues ranging from police brutality to world famine. An invitation from civil rights leader Medgar Evers to speak at voter registration rallies in Jackson, Miss., in 1962 launched Gregory into what he called “the civil rights fight.” He was frequently arrested for his activities in the ’60s, and once spent five days in jail in Birmingham, Ala. after joining demonstrators in 1963 at the request of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

Gregory, who was shot in the leg while trying to help defuse the Watts riots in 1965, made a failed run for mayor of Chicago as a write-in candidate in 1967. A year later, he ran for president as a write-in candidate for the Freedom and Peace Party, a splinter group of the Peace and Freedom Party. Hunter S. Thompson was one of his most vocal supporters.

In the late ’60s, Gregory began going on 40-day fasts to protest the Vietnam War. In 1980, impatient with President Carter’s handling of the Iranian hostage crisis, he flew to Iran and began a fast, had a “ceremonial visit” with revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and met with the revolutionary students inside the embassy. After four and a half months in Iran, his weight down to 106 pounds, he returned home.

Dick Gregory runs for President (photo via latimes.com)

But before Dick Gregory the activist, there was Dick Gregory the groundbreaking comedian. He was a struggling 28-year-old stand-up comic in Chicago who had launched his career in small black clubs when he received a life-changing, last-minute phone call from his agent in January 1961: The prestigious Playboy Club in Chicago needed someone to fill in for comedian Irwin Corey on Sunday night. Gregory was so broke he had to borrow a quarter from his landlord for bus fare downtown. Never mind that his audience turned out to be a convention of white frozen-food-industry executives from the South.

“Good evening, ladies and gentlemen,” Gregory said, coolly eyeing the audience. “I understand there are a good many Southerners in the room tonight. I know the South very well. I spent 20 years there one night. …“Last time I was down South, I walked into this restaurant, and this white waitress came up to me and said: ‘We don’t serve colored people here.’ I said: ‘That’s all right, I don’t eat colored people. Bring me a whole fried chicken.’ ”Despite having to deal with what he later described as “dirty, little, insulting statements” from some members of the audience, the heckling soon stopped as Gregory won them over with his provocatively funny but nonbelligerent satirical humor.

“Segregation is not all bad,” he said on stage. “Have you ever heard of a wreck where the people on the back of the bus got hurt?” What was supposed to be a 55-minute show, Gregory later recalled, went on for about an hour and 40 minutes. And by the time he walked off stage, the audience gave him a thundering ovation. He did so well, he was booked at the club for two weeks and then held over for several more.

To read full article, go to: Dick Gregory, who rose from poverty to become a groundbreaking comedian and civil rights activist, dies at 84 – LA Times

R.I.P. Jim Vance, 75, Washington DC’s Longest-Serving Local News Anchor

Washington DC anchor Jim Vance (photo via washingtonpost.com)

by Matt Schudel via washingtonpost.com

In a city of news junkies and scores of high-profile figures in politics and the media, the most-watched journalist in Washington may well have been Jim Vance. With 45 years as the face of WRC-TV (Channel 4), he was the region’s longest-serving television news anchor. He presided over the area’s top-rated newscasts and became a public figure in his own right. He gained broad sympathy for his openness about his struggles with drugs and depression.

Mr. Vance, who was 75, died July 22. The death was announced by WRC-TV, where he had worked since 1969, but no further details were provided. He announced his diagnosis of cancer earlier this year.After three years as a reporter for Channel 4, Mr. Vance ascended to the anchor’s chair in 1972, putting him in the first wave of black news anchors in major news markets.

In addition to reading the news, he also delivered pointed commentaries, often on sensitive racial topics. Mr. Vance sat alongside a revolving cast of co-anchors and was often second or third in the local ratings until he teamed with Doreen Gentzler in 1989. Together, with sportscaster George Michael and meteorologist Bob Ryan, they vaulted Channel 4 to the top of the local ratings and stayed there for more than 25 years.

In the nation’s capital, Mr. Vance’s 11 p.m. newscasts with Gentzler regularly drew more viewers than the prime-time shows of the three major cable networks — CNN, Fox and MSNBC — combined.

To read more, go to: Jim Vance, Washington’s longest-serving local news anchor, is dead at 75 – The Washington Post

Aretha Franklin Honored with Aretha Franklin Way in Hometown of Detroit

Aretha Franklin wipes away tears as she has street dedicated to her in hometown of Detroit (photo via huffingtonpost.com)

by Jenna Amatulli via huffingtonpost.com

Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul, was honored with a street named after her in Detroit this week.

A portion of Madison Avenue ― beginning at the corner of Brush Street outside of the Detroit City Music Hall for the Performing Arts ― is now called Aretha Franklin Way.

Franklin was near-speechless during the unveiling ceremony:

The 75 year-old songstress later spoke on the stage at the Music Hall on Thursday evening, thanking the city of Detroit for always supporting her and joking about needing some Kleenex.

“Thank you again for this resplendent and magnificent honor of this street, Aretha’s Way. I want to see it every time I come down here, I’m going to dance down it!” she said.

Source: Aretha Franklin Overcome With Emotion After Street Named After Her In Detroit | HuffPost

Happy 67th Birthday, Stevie Wonder! Here’s 15 Stories About The Music Legend Worth Reading 

Stevie Wonder (photo via okayplayer.com)

by Kevito via okayplayer.com

What can be said that hasn’t already been shared about Stevland Hardaway Morris? Better known around six galaxies as Stevie Wonder, the man, former child prodigy and one of the most successful musicians of the late 20th century turns 67-years-old today (May 13). For those not old enough to know the story of the “Lil’ Stevie Wonder,” here it goes: Signed to Motown’s Tamla label at the age of 11, he performed, wrote, sung and produced records for them all the way into the 2010s.

With iconic singles such as “Sir Duke,” “You Are the Sunshine of My Life,” “Isn’t She Lovely,” “Superstition,” and albums such as Talking BookInnervisions and Songs in the Key of Life — Stevie has more than 30 U.S. top ten hits, won 25 Grammy Awards, helped to make Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.‘s birthday into a national holiday. He is an official “Messenger of Peace” for the United Nations and one of the all-time top artists for the Billboard Hot 100.

To us, he is simply a man who has been in touch with the divine spirit of the Creator, and has illuminated our worlds with his songs and legacy. From playing on street corners with his friend back in the days to throwing down at President Barack Obama‘s last White House party — Stevie Wonder’s impact on pop culture, politics, activism and music are the stuff of legends. For that, we celebrate his life and continuing revolution around the sun by championing these 15 stories that you should read to get more familiar with the architect behind so many classic jams.

Brayton Bowman Puts A Valentine’s Day Twist On This Stevie Wonder Classic [Premiere]

Stevie Wonder Talks God, Race + A Nickname From The Temptations On PBS’ ‘Blank On Blank’

Charlie Murphy Claims Stevie Wonder Was A Boxer In A New ‘True Hollywood Story’

“I Encourage You To Choose Love Over Hate” – Stevie Wonder Pleads For #BlackLiveMatter In London

Stevie Wonder: “Prince’s music was so picturesque that even I could see it.”

Watch Outtakes From Stevie Wonder’s Karaoke Session w/ James Corden

Snoop Dogg Tells The Tale Of Collaborating With Stevie Wonder On New LP ‘Bush’

Watch An Animated Peanut Butter Wolf Introduce Stevie Wonder To Madlib

Stevie Wonder Takes Us Behind The Creation Of “Love’s In Need Of Love Today”

Stevie Wonder Lists The Top Ten Advantages Of Being Blind On The Late Show With David Letterman

Throwback Thursday: When Bob Marley Met Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder & Michael Jackson

MLK Day Was 20 Years In The Making And Stevie Wonder Was There Every Step Of The Way

Stevie Wonder Weighs In On Ferguson & Eric Garner’s Death Mid-Show In Seattle

Unreleased Stevie Wonder Track “So Much In Love” Surfaces

Stevie Wonder Boycotts Florida Following Zimmerman Verdict

Source: Happy Birthday, Stevie Wonder: Here’s 15 Stories About The Music Icon You Should Read Okayplayer

72-Year-Old Darlene Mullins Finishes College With Honors After 55 Years

72 year-old college graduate Darlene Mullins (photo via huffpost.com)

by Taryn Finley via huffpost.com

It’s never too late to go back to school.

Just ask 72-year-old Darlene Mullins, who recently graduated from Tennessee State University in Nashville, Tennessee. The grandmother of four walked at the school’s commencement Saturday.

Darlene left school nearly 55 years ago in the name of love. She was a track star at the historically black college and met her husband-to-be, John Mullins, in 1962, she told USA Today. “I thought he was the finest thing walking on the campus,” Darlene told the HBCU’s campus magazine in 2014. The duo knew they would marry each other the moment they met and began dating shortly after. But Darlene’s track coach noticed that she was spending most of her time with her boyfriend. Her coach gave Darlene, who was training to go to the 1964 Olympics, an ultimatum: the track team or John. Darlene chose John.

She finished her freshman year with 25 credits and married John in 1963. Her husband graduated in 1964 and began working. Darlene took care of the household and was a stay-at-home mother to their son and daughter. The family lived in six states over the years, due to John’s successful career in business. Darlene told the campus outlet that she eventually began a career in retail and cosmetology as their children grew older.

Though she remained busy, she always longed to finish school. That feeling intensified when the couple would visit the HBCU for homecomings and other celebrations.“Something kept nagging at me,” she said. “I always told my children to make sure they finish what they started and I kind of felt it was time to live up to my own advice.”

To read full article, go to: 72-Year-Old Finishes College With Honors After 55 Years, Inspires Us All | HuffPost

R.I.P. Cuba Gooding, Sr., 72, Lead Singer of Main Ingredient 

Cuba Gooding Sr. (photo via rolling stone.com)

article by Althea Legaspi via rollingstone.com

Cuba Gooding, Sr., the lead singer for soul group the Main Ingredient and father of actor Cuba Gooding, Jr., has died, Billboard reports. He was 72.

Gooding was found dead in his car on Thursday in Woodland Hills, CA, according to TMZ. Gooding Sr. had served as a backing singer on some recordings for the Main Ingredient before stepping into the lead role in 1971, following the death of former lead singer Donald McPherson. The group garnered several gold singles, including their highest-charting hit, 1972’s “Everybody Plays the Fool,”Just Don’t Want to Be Lonely,”Happiness is Just Around the Bend” and “Rolling Down a Mountainside.”

Gooding signed with Motown Records in 1977 as a solo artist, where he released two albums. His debut, The 1st Album, housed his charting single “Mind Pleaser.” In 1979, he re-teamed with the Main Ingredient and worked with them through the Eighties. In 1983 Gooding recorded a remake of “Happiness is Just Around the Bend,” which became a dance hit.

Gooding also scored a hit in 2012 with “This Christmas.” He had four children with his wife Shirley Gooding: actors Cuba Gooding, Jr., Omar Gooding and April Gooding, and musician Tommy Gooding.

Source: Cuba Gooding, Sr., Main Ingredient Singer, Dead at 72 – Rolling Stone

‘Hidden Figures’ Inspiration Katherine Johnson Will Deliver Hampton University Commencement Address in May

NASA Mathematician Katherine Johnson (photo via essence.com)

article by Danielle Kwateng-Clark via essence.com

Hampton University is welcoming a living legend for their 147th Commencement this May. The historically Black university announced that Katherine G. Johnson, the physicist and mathematician who worked for NASA and was an inspiration behind “Hidden Figures,” would join them as their commencement speaker this year.

As an African-American woman, job options were limited —but she was eventually hired as one of several female mathematicians for the agency that would become NASA,” President Barack Obama said during her Presidential Medal of Freedom honor.

To read more, go to: Katherine Johnson Will Deliver Hampton University Commencement Address| Essence.com