The Power of Prayer (A.S.K.)

Jesus knew the importance of prayer and practiced it regularly. He often slipped away from the crowds to commune with God. Then He would receive the guidance and strength necessary to carry on His Father’s work.

In teaching about the power of prayer, Jesus promised us that God will always answer. He used three words to help us pray effectively:

Ask—We are to come to God with our requests. In doing so, we are acknowledging both our need and God’s ability to meet it. Jesus assures us that every request will be granted in accordance with our Father’s best for us and others.

Seek—Sometimes the Lord asks us to get involved in the situation about which we are praying. For example, we may be petitioning for Him to help us find a new job. He wants us not only to seek His wisdom and guidance but also to take practical steps to discover what’s available. When we obey His directions, God promises to provide the answer.

Knock—In carrying out the Father’s plan, we’ll encounter obstacles along the way. For us to overcome them, sustained and persistent praying may be required. Knocking implies a level of force being applied so that a door will open. Once God presents the solution, we need no longer ask. When He opens up a path, we should walk on it.

Prayer accomplishes much (James 5:16). It engages the Lord in people’s personal lives as well as in the affairs of government. It is the way we experience oneness with our Father and receive the essentials needed to carry out His work.

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.

“Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake?  If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! (Matthew 7:7-11)

Remembering Dick Gregory (1932-2017)

Dick Gregory was born in 1932 in St. Louis, Missouri. Having run track and field in school, Gregory eventually turned to stand-up comedy, having his big break performing at the Playboy Club in the early 1960s. Known for his sophisticated, layered humor that took on racial issues of the day, Gregory became a national comedy headliner and a trailblazer for upcoming African-American humorists. He eventually turned his focus away from the stage to focus on various forms of activism that included the Civil Rights Movement and to run for political office. Over the ensuing decades he has worked as a lecturer and also become a health/fitness guru.

Background and Early Years

Richard Claxton Gregory was born on October 12, 1932, in St. Louis, Missouri. He grew up in crippling poverty, with his mother working long hours and father having left the large family behind. With the intellectually-minded Gregory taking on work as a youth to also support the household, he was eventually able to join his high school track team and was later accepted to Southern Illinois University. As a teenager, he began his lifelong call for racial justice and activism when he first protested against segregated schools. He was drafted into the army in the mid-1950s and it was during this time that he began performing stand-up comedy and later became part of its entertainment division after winning a talent event.

Big Break

After his return to the states, Gregory worked as an MC at various Chicago clubs, honing his craft as a comedian and taking on odd jobs while working the circuit. He brandished a trailblazing style of humor that was calm, satirical and full of sociopolitical, racially-tinged wit with topics pulled straight from contemporary headlines—a stark contrast to the song-and-dance routines previous African-American performers had been relegated to.

Gregory’s big break came in 1961 at Hugh Hefner’s Playboy Club in Chicago, where the comedian, as a replacement act, performed in front of a room of white executives visiting from the segregated South. Nonetheless, Gregory was a huge success. “It was the first time they had seen a black comic who was not bucking his eyes, wasn’t dancing and singing and telling mother-in-law jokes,” said Gregory in a 2000 Boston Globe interview. ”Just talking about what I read in the newspaper.”

TV History

The comedian had his run at the club extended by weeks and gradually became a national comedy headliner. That same year, Gregory made history by appearing on Jack Paar’s Tonight Show after making it clear he wanted to be invited to sit on the couch to have a chat with the host like white entertainers, thus becoming the first guest to do so on the program. Gregory became a recurring guest on the show over the ensuing months.

Prominent Activist

Gregory was at the forefront of the Civil Rights Movement during the ‘60s, becoming friends with the likes of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Medgar Evers. Over the coming decades he took on a range of issues that ranged from ending the Vietnam War to feminism, Native-American rights and apartheid in South Africa, with Gregory being arrested dozens of times for his causes. In the mid-‘60s, Gregory unsuccessfully ran against Richard Daley to be mayor of Chicago. In 1968, he also ran for U.S. president as a write-in candidate with the Freedom and Peace Party during the electoral showdown between Richard Nixon and Hubert H. Humphrey.

Over the years, Gregory became devoted to health and fitness, adopting a vegetarian diet and completing long runs in a continuation of his favored sport from his teen days. He became a noted university lecturer and looked at issues around diet within African-American communities. Gregory also regularly fasted in protest of particular world events.

During the mid-’80s, the comedian/activist launched a weight-loss business known as the Slim/Safe Bahamian Diet. He eventually filed a lawsuit against his business partners with major money troubles leading to the loss of Gregory’s 40-acre farm in Plymouth, Massachusetts. He also turned away from stand-up for a time, citing the unhealthy environment of the clubs, but later made his way back to performing. In 1996 he starred in the critically well-received Off-Broadway production Dick Gregory Live!

Personal Life

Gregory has been married for more than five and a half decades to Lillian Smith, with the couple tying the knot in 1959. The two have 10 children, with one son having died in infancy. Gregory has acknowledged that his wife was the primary emotional caretaker of their children due to the demands of his work projects and traveling.

Gregory revealed in 2000 he was diagnosed with lymphoma, reportedly stating that he relied on factors like diet and alternative treatments to help put the cancer in remission.

The comedian/activist has also authored a number of books, including the controversially titled 1964 release Nigger: An Autobiography (in the foreword, he showcased his humor yet again as he wrote to his deceased mother: “Wherever you are, if ever you hear the word ‘nigger’ again, remember they are advertising my book…”), 1971’s No More Lies: The Myth and the Reality of American History, 1973’s Dick Gregory’s Natural Diet for Folks Who Eat: Cookin’ With Nature and the 2000 memoir Callus on My Soul.

Dick Gregory passed away on Saturday, August 19th, 2017.

*Originally published on Biography.

#BlackLivesMatter: Who Was Michelle Cusseaux?

The finding of the board of three citizens and three officers runs contrary to prior investigations into the incident and today was celebrated as a civil rights victory by those protesting the mentally ill woman’s death.

We’ve made history here in Phoenix,” said Fran Garrett, Cusseaux’s mother. For more than a year, Garrett and others have been fighting to get “justice for Michelle,” and as she stood with friends and family outside City Hall to discuss the police board’s action, she called its decision an important step forward in the fight for racial justice and mental-health parity.

Cusseaux was killed in August 2014 after a police officers were sent to her apartment as part of a court-ordered mental-health pick up. According to police, she wouldn’t open her door so they had to force their way inside. Dupra has said he saw her holding a hammer above her head in a way he deemed threatening and that he shot her in self defense.

Interestingly, she was shot to death days after Michael Brown was killed in Ferguson, Missouri, and as such, her story has remained a local rallying cry for police reform, racial justice, and an overhaul in police training. In the days following her slaying, hundreds in Phoenix and around the country protested and demanded an independent investigation. Much to their dismay, earlier this year, the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office announced that it would not press charges against Dupra.

Among those joining Garrett today were Elizabeth Singleton, a Phoenix advocate for mental health and the homeless, and Reverend Jarrett Maupin, a local civil rights leader. Maupin called the review board’s decision “a watershed moment for civil rights,” and Singleton said Cusseaux’s death helped convince the PPD that it needed a special mental-health squad.

She also spoke of the need for more training and said it was imperative that the police be equipped with body cameras: “It will help keep the community safe and it will help keep the officers safe.” While Dupra’s case now is in the hands of the PPD Disciplinary Review Board — which could suspend, demote, or fire him — Garrett explained that justice for her daughter goes deeper than his punishment. It’s about “recognizing that people with disabilities matter…and recognizing that mental illness is a disability,” she says.

*Taken from Phoenix New Times.