Comedian Richard Pryor has been honored with a statue in Peoria, Illinois. Sculptor Preston Jackson unveiled the 9-foot bronze statue Sunday, surrounded by fans and locals who believed in Pryor’s perseverance despite a difficult upbringing.
Some Peoria citizens didn’t like the idea of erecting a statue to honor a comedian known for his foul mouth and drug abuse. Jackson wrestled with the comedian’s lurid history while working to convince locals of his merit.
“If a human being doesn’t have any comfort and love, they will turn bad, and I began to understand his life,” Jackson told the Peoria Journal Star.
Pryor had an incredibly challenging childhood as one of four children raised in his grandmother’s brothel. His prostitute mother divorced his pimp father when he was a child and subsequently lost custody. His early years were filled with abuse and dysfunction.
“He wasn’t flawed as much as he was real,” said Howard Johnson, president of Peoria’s African American Hall of Fame. “So many people wear raincoats, but Richard was very real and very transparent. That’s the thing I appreciate about him.”
In order to erect he statue, $130,000 had to be raised. Comedian and talk show host George Lopez organized a benefit in November to cover the costs. Eddie Griffin, DL Hughley, Cedric the Entertainer and Mike Epps all contributed to the cause.
The statue features a bronze plate with an inscription as well. It reads:
“Richard Pryor was a world-class comedian and social critic who used his art to break down stereotypes and reflect on racism and other social issues in an unflinching manner. Against impossible odds, he achieved massive success on a global scale. Pryor spoke truth to power and changed the ways we as a society deal with issues of race and social class. His unusually personal and insightful art was a powerful window into his own vulnerable soul, but also a window into a society that still struggles to extend equality and dignity to all of humanity. He was awarded the inaugural Kennedy Center Mark Twain Prize for American Humor in 1998.”