Although it happened in the early ’90s, but it seems like just yesterday for Tony Rock as he recalls the complications from diabetes that claimed the life of his beloved dad, Julius. “It’s something I have never forgotten,” says Rock, best known for his work on TV’s “All of Us.”
Nearly six months ago, after being urged by his sister, the comedian established the MyRock Foundation, a charity whose mission is to build awareness and prevention of diabetes among African Americans.
On January 6, in celebration of what would have been his father’s birthday, Rock made a PSA video, which has gone viral, to honor his dad’s memory. “He is my rock and always will be my rock.”
It’s a known fact that African Americans are disproportionately affected by diabetes with 3.7 million, or 14.7 percent of all African Americans aged 20 years or older have the disease.
Since starting the foundation, which also assists those struggling with the illness of loved ones, Rock is pleased with the support he’s received from colleagues.
“It’s a lot of comics and others who heard about the foundation and got in touch with me. Coco, who’s on the radio in Detroit, had a cavalier attitude toward diet and exercise. Now she’s doing things differently. You can live with diabetes. It’s not the worst thing to have, but you have to manage yourself and have some self control,” he says.
Diabetes is manageable, but it’s also increasing in numbers. Just yesterday the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that shows 1 in 12 Americans have the disease, which complicates the body’s ability to process sugar. This is a 9 percent increase from the 2008 estimate of 23.6 million.
One major reason for the spike in numbers is attributed to the development of more obesity-related Type 2 diabetes. The good news is that research has proven that walking not only burns more calories but can also lower the risk for the disease. Reducing your caloric intake is also beneficial.
Learn your family’s medical history. Having a diabetic parent increases one’s genetic predisposition. Rock is fortunate that he doesn’t have the disease.
“My pops, the whole time while I was growing up, was conscious of what we ate,” says Rock, who is the younger brother of actor/comedian Chris Rock. “He made sure we exercised and had time outside. He knew having a healthy lifestyle meant exercise. He stressed that we should eat the right things because he knew what he went through.
“[African Americans] have the worst eating habits in the world. We think because we ate it as slaves, we should eat it today. They gave slaves the scraps. Nobody needs a chitlin.”
Rock is planning to put together a show with fellow comedians in an effort to further raise consciousness about diabetes.
So, does he believe that laughter is a way of healing? “They say it’s the best medicine. However, if you go to a doctor and you’re terminally ill and the best thing he can do for you is tell you a joke, you’ve got a fucked up doctor!”
Rolling With Rock: What’s Next?
•He recently embarked on his No Sleep Til Brooklyn Comedy Tour. Free tickets will be given out for every show. “I’m going to tour until I can’t tour no more.”
Visit tonyrockcomedy.com to sign up.
•This spring you’ll see him in the flick The Last Laugh. “It’s a drama. You will see me cry. It’s touching. I’ll get a lot of girls over that one.”
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Senior Editor, EBONY Magazine