Born in St. Louis, Dick Gregory grew up at 1803 N. Taylor Avenue shining shoes to help feed his family. At Sumner High School, he led a march against conditions in segregated schools and set a state record in track. As a star comedian in the early 1960s, he used biting racial satire and shunned the stereotypes of early black comics. Prompted by Martin Luther King, Jr., he became a civil rights and anti-war leader, running for president in 1968 and fasting for human rights both here and abroad. Bringing wit and dedication to countless causes for decades, Dick Gregory started the "Campaign For Human Dignity" in 1992 to fight crime in St. Louis neighborhoods.
Mr. Gregory has spent a great geal of his life sharing the wisdom of his experience about the virtues of a vegan raw food diet for health and disease prevention, with a comic twist that is exclusive and unique to the Gregory style.
The following are excerpts from his book "Dick Gregory's Natural Diet for Folks Who Eat: Cookin' with Mother Nature," which was first published in 1973.
Dick Gregory's Natural Diet for Folks Who Eat:
Cookin' with Mother Nature
Warning: The Author Has Determined That
Not Reading the Following Pages Is Dangerous
to Your Health
This is a book for folks who are willing to take the time to stop and think. I've often said that one of the biggest problems in America today is that we Americans just don't think, not just about food, about anything.
The trouble with us 'Americans is that we've never thought. Remember that old cleanser commercial? "Keep the rust out of the entire house!" So folks would clean up all the rusty spots. But if they ever thought to pick up that can of clenser after it had been sitting for awhile, sure enough they'd have found that little brown rusty ring!
Let's take another example. We spend millions of dollars in the United States every year for civil defense buildings. But do you realize most of them are closed on weekends? It's as if we think our enemies are planning to fight a five-day war! Even Israel took six days.
Life insurance is another example. Probably not other group of people on the face of this earth spend more money on life insurance than we do in the United States. Did you ever stop and think that you have to be slightly stupid to buy life insurance? But just analyze this. You're betting the insurance company people that you're going to die. And they're betting you that you are going to live. And you're hoping they win. And they charge you.
Sometimes the strangest things cause you to stop and think. I remember when I first started thinking about whether or not it was right to eat meat. It was on Thanksgiving Day a number of years ago. I had been drinking while I waited for the turkey to get done. By the time I was standing at the head of the table with my carving knife, I suddenly had the strangest thoughts. I got to thinking that there might be some beings on another planet somewhere who are as intelligent compared with us as we are compared with turkeys.
Now that's a disturbing thought! I could just see myself in some strange planetary oven, being roasted. It would be one thing to roast white folks brown; they'd be trying to figure out a way to "undone" us black folks. I even thought about myself lying on a platter all filled with stuffing!
Then I had visions of these beings from another planet going to the butcher shop with their meat list. I wonder what they'd call their butcher shops? They'd probably call them "folks shops." I could hear them placing an order: "Give me a half dozen Oriental knees, two Caucasian feet and twelve fresh Black lips." And the folks-shopkeeper comes back smiling and says, "These Black lips are so fresh they're still talking'." After that little fantasy, I couldn't eat my Thanksgiving dinner. But it started me thinking.
There would be a whole lot of changes in America if we Americans decided one day to start thinking. And one of the biggest and most important changes would be in the "traditional American diet. The old saying is true: You are what you eat." It would be more accurate, perhaps, to say: "You are what you assimilate." That is, your body literally is what you assimilate from the "foods"-or more frequently "things"-you eat to rebuild cells and what you eliminate as waste products of the cell-building activity as you revitalize yourself each day.
If you just stop and look around you, you can see-and many of you can feel-the sorry results of eating habits of the majority of folks in America today. Folks getting old twenty, thirty, forty or even fifty years before their time. Swollen ankles, varicose veins, pot bellies, bald heads, arthritis, rheumatism, ulcers, sinus trouble, hemorrhoids, heart trouble, liver trouble, kidney trouble, overweight, underweight, anemia, bad feet, headaches, short breath, can't sleep or can't wake up, no energy, "tired" blood, sitting in front of the television set all evening and falling asleep watching it-the list is endless and very, very familiar.
Dr. Laura Newman, in her 1970 book, "Make Your Juicer Your Drugstore," reports: "During the last 50 years in the U.S.A., the increase of Epilepsy has been 450%; Diabetes, 1800%; Brights Disease, 650%; Anemia, 300%; Insanity, 400%; Heart Trouble, 300%; Cancer, 308%; and while we have the distinction of raising the world's best hogs, we have 75% of the world's Sinus Trouble."
The sad truth is that all of these afflictions, and their unbelievable increase, are the result of the American habit of putting "garbage" in their stomach instead of in the disposal. Most folks throw leftover "garbage" in the incinerator, disposal or garbage can-but only after they have tossed down or gulped-seldom chewed!-the greatest percentage of garbage into their own bodies.
It is very hard to unlearn the falsehoods we have accepted as truth all our lives. So much of what we are taught-both in school and at our mother's knee-is nothing more than accepted, handed down opinion that simply will not hold up under cold, hard analysis or weather the test of new experience. The great scientist Albert Einstein described most of what we learn as "a collection of prejudices which are fed to us with a porridge spoon before our eighteenth year." In schools at all grade levels, teachers present the current theories and notions of the time as though they were established facts. But the passage of time, combined with new experience and research, makes yesterday's "facts" today's myths, superstitions and falsehoods.
Einstein's description is uniquely apporpriate when it comes to the matter of personal diet. We are literally spoon fed wrong notions about what we ought to eat! It begins when we are babies and food is inserted in our mouths; we are offered no choice. For many of us the process never changes! The only alternative babies have is to spit it out-which of course they often do. Mothers see that reaction as something babies go through until they learn how to eat rather than as the natural response of innocence to aa violation of Mother Nature's rules!
Teachers in the great centers of education in the ancient world (e.g., Pythagoras at Crotona) were very hip. They understood that it was impossible for folks to learn anything until they had experienced its full truth for themselves . So the ancient teachers set up a curriculum where their pupils practiced the arts of numerology and dynamic geometry, for example, to experience the faculty of intuition. From that experience a pupil could go on to apprehend the essential laws of cosmic motion.
This book is based upon that anient undestanding of how we learn. The book grew out of my own personal experience. Its pages reflect what I have learned-what I have experienced as Truth and what I hope you will try for yourself-in my new life of "cookin' with Mother Nature."
Unless you are already very heavy into the natural-food-andway-of-life movement, most of what you read in Natural Diet for Folks Who Eat will go against everything you've ever believed about food, eating, health, and disease. I can only say to you, "Don't feel too bad. I started out on equal footing with the worst-eatin' reader of these pages!"
But I was fortunate. I met a teacher in the "ancient tradition," Dr. Alvenia M. Fulton. I'll speak more of her later, but in this chapter I'll just testify! When I met her, Dr. Fulton was confident the she pssessed the truth about food, nutrition and proper diet. But she knew I would have to experience that Truth for myself. I resisted every step of the way. Out of ignorance, I argued, rationalized, and repeated all the wrong notions about food I had been taught. Why? Because I just couldn't believe my momma would have fed meat if it was wrong, or given me cow's milk if it was wrong. And here was a stranger, a woman I had just met, telling me that my own momma had fed me wrong! My momma's main concern was that we kids got "somethin' to eat"
Every time I would come up with one of my stupid arguments, trying to refute what Dr. Fulton was telling me about some new way to change my diet, she would smile and say, "Just try it for me. Try it for a while and see what happens." I tried it, and invariably I liked it! I liked the fresh, pure tastes of natural foods; but even more important, I liked the glowing feeling of health, vigor and energy which followed my change in diet.
So many times I hear people resist changing their diet because they don't want to give up something they like. That's the first great myth to be dispelled . Learning to eat as Mother Nature intended her children to eat does not mean giving up something. It means just the opposite! It means gaining something of great value; a value far greater than the old rationalization "I've grown accustomed to its taste." It means gaining health, youthful energy and appearance, increased mental capacity, and a joy in living you never dreamed possible. To say nothing of the clean, fresh, natural taste of the food you will be enjoying!
The more I tried out Dr. Fulton's recommendations, the more I began to realize the sad neglet of my formal education. I had gone the whole school route-grade school, high school and college-and never once did I take a course in "Nature." I was never taught that the most important thing in life was learning to live in harmony with Nature. My formal education was so designed to teach me how to make a living, it never got around to teaching me how to live! I was taught about so-called civilization's attempt to control Nature and the ongoing war against Nature (although those terms were never used). I learned about the industrial revolution, the invention of the automobile, the steam engine and the airplane, the world wars, the atomic bomb and the hydrogen bomb, and other "accomplishments" of twentieth-century civilization. I was taught about thinkers, great political and military leaders, great philosophies and ideologies, but none of them told me about Nature.
I want to share with you may new experience with Mother Nature. Hopefully you'll learn something and have a few smiles. But most important is the experience you will gain in living a more natural way of life-the joyful experience of "cookin' with Mother Nature."
OK, we have weted your appetite with Chapter One. Here is one more choice-cut (pun intended) of Dick Gregory's Natural Diet for Folks Who Eat: Cookin' with Mother Nature:
Dick Gregory on "Fasting"
from chapter two; page 18
My Career involves my work as a comedian, lecturer, author, recording artist, television and film personality. My vocation involves my participation in the stuggle for human dignity-the human rights movement. The increased knowledge of proper diet has accompanied my deeper understanding of my vocation. My vocation, which began in the civil rights movement, has now been expanded to include the human rights and peace movements. Thus, my expanded vocation led to my next change in diet.
In talking with Dr. Fulton, I kept hearing of the benefical aspects of fasting. Like most people, I was afraid to go on a long fast. All my life I had been told, "If you don't eat, you'll die." I had read about Gandhi's fasts, and I greatly admired the man, but his dedication and commitment was a lesson from history rather than a shared experience.
I wanted to do something dramatic and personal to protest the continued slaughter in Vietnam. Dr. Fulton had fasted many times, and she had prescribed fasts for her patients. I became more and more convinced I, too, should go on a long fast, at least thirty days. So I decided, in the latter days of 1967, to take only distilled water for nourishment, beginning Thanksgiving Day and continuing until New Years Day, 1968. My fast was for moral reasons, as a social protest.
Dr. Fulton must have sensed my uneasiness with the decision. She told me, "If you're really serious about this fast, I'll go on it with you." She did. Not only did she fast right along with me, but she guided and counseled me every step of the way. She told me how to prepare for the fast by cleaning out my body. She put me on a diet of fruit juice seven days prior to Thanksgiving, and she told me to cleanse my colon with enemas and to continue the enemas after the fast began. Under the direction of Dr. Fulton, what started out as a kind of "hunger strike" became a "scientific fast."
The first fast was the experience of my life! I started out weighing 280 pounds and on New Year's Day I was under a hundred pounds. I had become that "97-pound weakling," but felt stronger and healthier than ever before. I maintained my usual hectic schedule throughout the fast, traveling to fifty-seven cities in forty days. I gave 63 lectures.
My first forty-day fast was more of a protest against the Vietnam war than most people realized . I really thought I was going to die! I would come back to the hotel room somewhere after giving a lecture, flop down on the bed and fall asleep. Then I'd wake up in the middle of the night and pinch myself to see if I'd died in my sleep. I'd never died before, so I began to think, "Wow! Maybe this is what death feels like! One everlasting pinch!"
So I would call Dr. Fulton in Chicago, and she would reassure me. More Important, she would tell me exactly what was going to happen on each day of the fast! When Dr. Fulton told me that at the end of the third week of fasting I would feel a resurgence of energy like I had never felt before, well, I won't say I disbelieved her; I'll just say I didn't believe it at the time! But of course it was true, because at that period of the fast the body begins consuming itself, riding the system of stored-up poisons and waste that have been there for years.
On January 9, 1968, I broke my first fast, with fruit juice, at the Fultonia Health Food Center in Chicago. After a long fast, Dr. Fulton says, it is necessary to take a day of fruit juice for every five days you have been fasting, so I needed eight days of juice before I could begin eating again.
What began as an act of social protest-a political act-became in the process of living it a "purifying act"-in mind, body and spirit. As my body was cleansed of years of accumulated impurites, my mind and spiritual awareness were lifted to a new level. I felt closer to Mother Nature and all her children. I was now aware of the meaning of the words I uesd to hear in church: "The body is the temple of the spirit." Just as Jesus drove the moneychangers out of the temple, fasting had driven the "devils of my former diet" from my own "temple," and my life changed completely.
About three months after my first fast, I had asip of Scotch and soda and the taste was repugnant. That old favorite devil of mine was gone forever. I remembered how bad liquor tatses to most people the first time they try it. Folks say you have to "cultivate a taste" for booze . Even though the body is saying "No!" people repeat alcohol until they get used to it.
With my body cleansed from fasting, I had a new hunger. I hungered to know more about nutrition and proper food so that my "temple" would remain clean. I visited health food stores everywhere I traveled. I would head straight for the book rack and buy every book on health and nutrition I could get my hands on. I found more wisdom there than I've found on any college campus I've ever visited-and I lecture in three hundred colleges a year.
The more I read, the more I talked to Dr. Fulton and the more I experimented with my own diet, the closer I came to the fruitarian point of view concerning nutrition. After my first fast, I adopted a diet that included only raw foods. I became convinced I should leave my "cookin'" to Mother Nature!
The Result of Fasting
The long fast puts the entire body through a cleansing. That also includes toxic accumulations in the brain. And as the brain is cleansed the mind is released. During a long fast you will notice a heightening of ethical and spiritual awareness.
One of the things that happen during a long, cleansing fast is that you lose the six basic fears which plague humankind:
Fear of poverty
Fear of death
Fear of sickness
Fear of getting old
Fear of being criticized
Fear of losing your love
All six, or some combination of these fears, haunt everyone who is captive to the usual nervous imbalances accompanying toxic diet. But when those fears disappear you are really at home with Mother Nature and happily at peace with life in Mother Nature's world. You can shout the words of the familiar freedom phrase and they will have a meaning only you will truly realize: "Free at last!"