The city of Peoria has been pushing for years to honor the late Richard Pryor with a statue in his hometown. It took the sculptor some convincing, according to the Northwest Herald, as some Peoria residents failed to see the comedian as a figure worth honoring. The sculptor, Preston Jackson, has finally convinced the city.
It took Jackson nine years to finish the Richard Pryor sculpture, which is now a 9-foot bronze artwork. Along the way, Preston reportedly ran into difficulty related to funding. However, most of the difficulty in making his project a new attraction for the city of Peoria was getting everyone to look past Pryor’s history of foul language and drug abuse in order to see the bigger picture, which in Richard Pryor’s case is a history of laughs. But in many Illinois residents’ opinion, the laughs that Pryor brought on were outweighed by the gasps giving off due to his poor life choices.
In the years before his death in 2005, Pryor let some skeletons out of his closet. Reportedly, the comedian was raised in a brothel by his prostitute mother and personally molested a 6-year-old boy when he was a teenager. Richard Pryor was also quite open about his cocaine addiction and apparent hatred toward Bill Cosby, simply because he desired to be the only black male comedian around. Unfortunately, after being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, Pryor was no longer able to perform. During that time, Richard Pryor made a statement about his condition and career.
“I realized that I had more heart than energy, more courage than strength. My mind was willing, but my feets couldn’t carry me to the end zone.”
As problematic as getting the Pryor sculpture made and created was due to the comedian’s past, many leaders in Peoria believe that it shouldn’t matter. Recently, President of the Peoria African American Hall of Fame, Howard Johnson, spoke highly of the late Richard Pryor.
“He wasn’t flawed as much as he was real. So many people wear raincoats, but Richard was very real and very transparent. That’s the thing I appreciate about him.”
President Johnson is not alone in support of Richard. Chairman of the city’s Downtown Advisory Commission also found some uplifting words to say about Pryor.
“To me, I see it as kind of healing, because of Richard Pryor’s legacy and the love-hate, almost hate-hate, relationship with Peoria. He was an incredibly successful black actor and writer. His peers rank him at the top I think that this is recognizing his contribution, his legacy, his influence, and saying that we’re proud that he’s from Peoria now. And we want to tout that. We want to embrace that. And I think that’s good for everybody.”
Eventually, sculptor Preston Jackson gained full support from the city. The bronze sculpture of Richard Pryor will finally be unveiled on Sunday then placed in its new home in the Warehouse District of Peoria, Illinois.
[Image via Associated Press]