UPDATED: 9:30 a.m. ET., May 1
While death is an inevitable part of life, that fact doesn’t make it any easier when it is reported that someone has died.
At NewsOne, we’re using this space as both a celebration as well as a commemoration of the lives of notable Black people who left their indelible marks on the planet while they were here with us.
“[Rivers] led a life of accomplishment and chose to spend much of that life serving the people of his community,” said Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp.
Keep reading below to learn more about the notable Black people we’ve lost this year.
READ MORE: Rest In Power: Notable Black Folks Who We’ve Lost In 2022
Rest In Power: Notable Black People Who Have Died In 2023 was originally published on newsone.com
1. Tina Turner, 83Source:Getty
Tina Turner passed away at the age of 83.
2. Bill Lee, 94Source:Getty
Bill Lee was the father of the famous director Spike Lee.
3. Jim Brown, NFL Hall of Famer
4. Tori Bowie, Track StarSource:Getty
Former 100-meter world champion and three-time Olympic medalist Tori Bowie has died at the age of 32, her management company announced Wednesday.
5. Harry BelafonteSource:Getty
Actor, singer and activist Harry Belafonte has died at the age of 96, according to the New York Times.
The actor, who was a staunch supporter of the Civil Rights Movement, died Tuesday morning of congestive heart failure. His death was confirmed by his publicist Ken Sunshine.
Harry Belafonte was a pioneer in so many ways. He’s arguably one of the most successful Caribbean-American signers of all time. His first album Calypso, which premiered in 1956, sold over a million records. With hit songs like “The Banana Boat Song,” and “Jump In The Line,” Harry Belafonte’s rise to fame was inevitable. He would go on to perform on Broadway and star in numerous mega films such as Bright Road and Island In The Sun.
But music wasn’t Belafonte’s only passion. His support for the Civil Rights Movement ultimately defined who he was as a person. Belafonte was one of Martin Luther King Jr.’s confidants, often helping the family finically since King only made an honest living as a preacher.
Belafonte, along with Sidney Poitier, also helped bankroll the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee during the “Mississippi Freedom Summer” of 1964. He also served as chairman of the International Symposium of Artists and Intellectuals for African Children in Dakar, Senegal. Belafonte successfully leveraged his entertainment popularity to help drive social change all over the world.
Friends, family and fans took to social media to celebrate Harry Belafonte’s legacy and remember the leader, entertainer and civil rights pioneer.
“May Harry Belafonte, the lionhearted civil rights hero, rest in peace,” tweeted journalist Christian Amanpour. “He inspired generations around the whole world in the struggle for non-violent resistance justice and change. We need his example now more than ever.”
Educator Nina Turner tweeted a perfect Belafonte quote that eloquently sums up his legacy.
“I was an activist who became an artist, I was not an artist who became an activist.” – Harry Belafonte
6. Otis Redding IIISource:Getty
Otis Redding III, the youngest son of the iconic soul singer who became a revered musician in his own right, has died at the age of 59.
As reported by ABC affiliate WGXA in Macon, GA, Bibb County Coroner Leon Jones confirmed Redding’s death at a local hospital on Tuesday (Apr. 18), following a battle with cancer.
His sister, Karla Redding-Andrews, posted a statement on the Facebook page of the family charity, the Otis Redding Foundation:
Born in 1963, Otis III was only three when his famous father died in a plane crash on December 10, 1967. However, Otis III and his older brother, Dexter, would keep their father’s musical legacy alive with their funk band, The Reddings.
The Reddings would achieve moderate success, releasing six studio albums between 1980 and 1988. Their singles included “Remote Control” (peaking at #6 on Billboard Hot Soul Singles chart) and “Call The Law” (#16 on Hot Black Singles).
Following the band’s breakup in 1988, Otis III continued to tour on the Soul/Blues circuit. He also worked with the family’s foundation to organize summer camps for kids to learn music and served as board president for the local chapter of Meals on Wheels.
7. Howell Wayans
One of the most influential Black families in Hollywood is mourning the loss of a loved one. According to reports, Howell Wayans died at the age of 86. His death was confirmed by Marlon Wayan’s rep to E! News. No cause of death has been revealed.
Howell Wayans is the father to Keenan Ivory, Damon, Shawn, Dwayne, Kim, Nadia, Elvira, Diedra, Vonnie and Marlon. Their family is arguably the most successful Black family in Entertainment. Howell Wayans lost his wife Elvira in 2020.
Howell’s children took to social to express their emotions around their father’s loss and touched on their dad’s legacy.
“Thank you Pop for being an example of a Man to all your boys. I pray all young black boys can grow up to be a Man like you,” Marlon wrote on Instagram. “Baby boy loves you. And if ever i need you i know exactly where to find you… in my Bible that now sits by bed. Rest well. Kiss Ma for me. Tell her her babies miss her,” the actor continued. “I got two angels. I feel y’all lifting me already.”
Diedra also took to Instagram to share a heartfelt message about her father.
“My Heart is Heavy,” she wrote on her Instagram. “I thank God for allowing Us to have so many years of love, memories and great parents. The kind that never gave up on their kids. I know I was a handful but through y’all tough love, discipline and devotion, I became a phenomenal woman just like you Momta. A Spiritual woman like you Dad. And so it ends with a beautiful love story. Back together again. I can only imagine the joy y’all experienced seeing and holding each other again.”
Howell raised 10 of his children in NYC alongside his late wife, Elvira, who died three years ago. That includes several who went on to be incredibly successful in showbiz … Marlon, Shawn, Damon, Kim and Keenen. Just about all of the siblings have touched entertainment in one way or another … and have all enjoyed successful careers in their own right.
Howell has been described by his loved ones as a disciplinarian and a hard worker who instilled core tenets and values in all of his kids.
8. Willis Reed, NBA hall of famerSource:Getty
NBA Hall of Famer and Knicks legend, Willis Reed, has died at the age of 80 according to multiple reports.
In 2018, Reed underwent surgery after being diagnosed with congestive heart failure.
Willis Reed was arguably the greatest Knicks player of all time. The two-time NBA Finals MVP was a member of the NBA’s 50th and 75th-anniversary team, named an All-Star five times and Reed and won league MVP in the 1969-70 season. He was also named to the All-NBA team five times. Reed was also a Louisiana native and standout at Grambling State University.
Although undersized, the 6-foot-10, 235-pound center averaged nearly 19 points and 13 rebounds during his career. Reed is also one of three players to ever win All-Star MVP, NBA MVP, and NBA Finals MVP in the same season. The only other players to achieve this feat are Michael Jordan and Shaquille O’Neal.
His most famous moment came during Game 7 of the 1970 NBA finals against the Los Angeles Lakers. After a thigh injury had sidelined him in the previous game, Reed shocked the Madison Square Garden crowd by walking onto the court during warmups.
He scored the Knicks’ first two field goals and went on to win Finals MVP as the Knicks won the franchise’s first championship. Reed was again named Finals MVP two seasons later after New York’s second title.
Reed’s career was cut short by injuries, and he retired shortly after the second title run. He went on to briefly coach the Knicks before taking over at Creighton from 1981-85.
He eventually joined the New Jersey Nets in 1988, first as a coach and then as a member of the front office, helping to build the franchise into a championship contender in the early 2000s.
Reed’s legacy as one of the greatest basketball players to ever live will never die.
9. Lance Reddick, actorSource:Getty
Lance Reddick, the actor widely known for his role in the hit cable crime drama, “The Wire,” has died, according to reports.
First reported by TMZ, Reddick was found dead at his home in California on Friday morning. His cause of death was not immediately reported.
TMZ reported that law enforcement said the death of the 60-year-old “appears to be natural.”
NBC News published a statement from Reddick’s publicist asking to respect the actor’s grieving family’s privacy.
“Acclaimed actor Lance Reddick passed away suddenly this morning from natural causes,” Mia Hansen said. “Lance will be greatly missed. Please respect his family’s privacy at this time.”
Reddick also made a name for starring in the John Wick movie series, the latest of which he had been in the middle of promoting when he died.
“John Wick: Chapter 4” is scheduled to be released in movie theaters on March 24.
Reddick rose to fame playing the character of Baltimore Police Lieutenant Cedric Daniels, who appeared in all five seasons of “The Wire” on HBO.
Acting wasn’t Reddick’s only talent in the arts.
In 2011, he released his first album, “Contemplations and Rememberances.”
He previously attended the prestigious Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York, where he studied classical composition. He also played piano and said he always wanted to be a musician, but the acting jobs came first, which allowed him to take care of his family.
Reddick is survived by his wife, Stephanie Reddick, and two children, daughter Yvonne Nicole and son Christopher Reddick.
10. Felton Spencer, former NBA playerSource:Getty
Former NBA Basketball star Felton Spencer died on March 12 at the age of 55. Spencer’s death was confirmed by his sister Tammy Pollock in a tweet, but there was no cause of death mentioned.
Before Spencer took his talents to the NBA, he was a standout student-athlete at the University of Louisville. Spencer ended his college career with h 1,168 points and 694 rebounds. He also holds the school record for career field goal percentage (62.8%). During his time at the school, he helped the Cardinals win three consecutive Metro Conference tournaments and two Sweet 16 appearances.
11. Otis Taylor, NFL Player
Former NFL wide receiver and Hall of Famer Otis Taylor died last week at the age of 80. According to his family, Taylor had been battling Parkinson’s disease and dementia for more than a decade. According to ESPN, the former Kansas City Chiefs star was diagnosed with Parkinson’s and associated dementia in 1990, and in 2012, his family filed a lawsuit against the NFL claiming it was legally responsible for health issues he experienced beginning with seizures in 1969.
Taylor spent all 10-plus years of his career in Kansas City, where he was a fourth-round pick out of Prairie View A&M in the 1965 AFL draft. He went on to have two 1,000-yard seasons during an era in which the passing game was still evolving, and he finished his career with 7,306 receiving yards and 57 touchdown catches.
“My family and I would like to extend our heartfelt condolences to Otis’ wife Regina, his sister Odell and the entire Taylor family as we mourn his passing,” Chiefs chairman Clark Hunt said in a statement. “He was one of the most dynamic receivers of his era, and he helped revolutionize the position. Off the field, he was kind and dedicated to his community. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family. Otis’ legacy will live forever.”
12. Johanna Mazibuko, world’s oldest personSource:Twitter
Johanna Mazibuko, the oldest woman in South Africa, recently died following a long life of 128 years. Prior to her death on March 3, Mazibuko was believed to have been the oldest person living in the world.
Johanna Mazibuko, who was born on May 11, 1894, died two months before she was set to turn 129.
The cause of Mazibuko’s death was not immediately confirmed.
Local media outlet News 24 reported:
Speaking to News24 on Tuesday, her caregiver and daughter-in-law Thandiwe Wesinyana, better known as MmaLerato, said Mazibuko may have died from a stroke.
“Ouma [Mazibuko] wasn’t feeling well, so I took her to the hospital on 14 February. At the hospital, the left side of her body was numb, and doctors said it might be a stroke. She was given high blood medication and painkillers, then discharged on 28 February,” said Mmalerato.
Mazibuko spent three days at home and died the next day.
MmaLerato said she was at the supermarket when Mazibuko died. Her sister Elisa was by her side.
On my return, it started raining heavily as I entered the yard. I ran into the house, put my plastics down, and immediately boiled the kettle to make tea. While I was doing that, her sister, Elisa, said, ‘Ouma is gone’.
Mazibuko said last year that she was “amazed” at how long she had been able to live while also questioning the reasoning for her longevity.
“I am amazed at why I am still here after so many years. Why am I still here? People around me have been dying,” Mazibuko told News 24 at the time. “When will I die? What’s the point of being alive? The world has tired me because I am just sitting here doing nothing.”
Chances are that Mazibuko was indeed the oldest person living, and perhaps even the oldest person of all time.
Previously, a French woman who died in 1997 was recognized as being the oldest person in history.
Jeanne Calment, who was born in the late 1800s like Mazibuko, lived to be 122 years old.
13. Wayne Shorter, jazz legendSource:Getty
Legendary jazz musician Wayne Shorter died on March 2 at the age of 89 in Los Angeles. His death was confirmed by his publicist Alisse Kingsley.
The saxophonist and composer was one of the most influential jazz musicians on the planet.
Coming in prominence in the 1950s, Shorter was the primary composer for Art Blakey’s Bass Messengers. He would later partner with Miles Davis joining his Second Great Quintet, then co-founding the world-renowned jazz fusion band Weather Report.
Shorter composed 20 albums as a bandleader of the Weather Report. He also recorded several albums for Blue Note Records, composing the majority of the music.
14. Zandra Flemister
U.S. Secret Service agent Zandra Flemister has died at the age of 71. She was the first Black woman to serve as a special agent for the Secret Service. According to reports, Flemister died from Alzheimer’s complications. Flemister is remembered a pioneer at the agency although she said she left because of racial discrimination.
She went on to spend over three decades as a foreign service officer, rising to the upper ranks of senior foreign service before Alzheimer’s disease forced her to retire in 2011. She did so while juggling family responsibilities, including raising her son, who was diagnosed with autism as a child.
“The level of accomplishments that my wife managed … under the conditions that she lived, that to me says a hell of a lot about the woman,” Flemister’s husband, John Collinge, told NPR in a phone interview.
Flemister’s death — of Alzheimer’s complications and publicized in a Washington Post obituary — has renewed attention to her trailblazing stint at the Secret Service in the 1970s.
“I’ve gotten an incredible outpouring from Black women Secret Service agents past and present, and they are looking to her now as, I guess I would say, a forgotten pioneer who has been rescued from oblivion,” Collinge said, of the emails and calls he has gotten in recent days.
15. Irv Cross, NFL Player and sport analystSource:Getty
Former NFL player Irv Cross has died at the age of 81. Cross, who was the first Black full-time sports analyst on national television, suffered from stage 4 chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, according to Boston University researchers. The degenerative brain disease made life tough for Cross in his final days as he suffered from depression, mood swings and memory loss that forced him into isolation.
“He really didn’t want to be with people,” said his widow, Liz Cross. “The only person he wanted to be with was me. When he was with me, he really didn’t want to be with me. He just wanted me to be there.”
Cross was diagnosed with mild cognitive dementia in 2018, and his family says after the diagnosis he often sat in a chair complaining of headaches that never went away. He also stopped going to church, could barely watch football anymore and struggled physically with his balance and was paranoid.
Toward the end,” Cross said, “he saw things that weren’t there.”
Irv Cross, of course, was not alone in misery among his former NFL brethren. According to its latest report, the BU CTE Center said it has diagnosed 345 former NFL players with CTE out of 376 former players who were studied, a rate of 91.7%. The disease can be diagnosed only after death.
“He was the nicest, kindest, most helpful, wonderful man I ever met,” Cross said. “But that wasn’t who he was at the end. And that wasn’t who he was. It was the disease that did that.”
Dr. Ann McKee, a professor of neurology and pathology at Boston University, said she was not surprised Irv Cross’ brain reached stage 4 given the length of his overall football career (the study counted 17 years) and his age. Irv Cross and his family made the decision to donate his brain to help raise awareness of the long-term consequences of repeated blows to the head.
“I do think there’s more education about the risks of football and I do think there’s more awareness of concussion management but I still think we’re way, way behind where we should be,” McKee said. “We need to educate young athletes that this is a risk that they are undertaking. We need to educate coaches to keep head trauma out of the game. We need to do more managing of athletes by monitoring them better. I still think there’s a very cavalier attitude toward CTE. There’s a lot of denial.”
Cross was an outstanding NFL player, During his career, he was a two-time Pro Bowl cornerback who had 22 interceptions, 14 fumble recoveries, eight forced fumbles, and two defensive touchdowns. In 1971 he joined CBA and became the first Black network sports show anchor. Although CTE made it hard on Cross towards the end of his life, his wife said he never regretted playing football.
“He would have done it again in a heartbeat,” she said. “But he didn’t think kids should play football.”
16. Oi Fashion Rocks In Rio – Charity AuctionSource:Getty
Glória Maria, a pioneering broadcast journalist in Brazil who is widely believed to be the country’s first Black TV reporter of African descent, died on Feb. 2 at the age of 73.
The New York Times reported that Maria “toppled barriers for Black women in television at a time when the country’s anchor chairs were mostly filled by white men.”
Globo, her longtime employer, said in an announcement that the cause was a cancer that she had seemingly beaten in 2019, but that returned last year and had spread to her brain.
Glória Maria spent more than five decades in front of the camera at Globo TV, Brazil’s largest television network, becoming a Black idol in a country with a history of deep racial prejudice.
Starting as a local reporter in Rio, she went on to work as a correspondent and anchor. She reported from more than 100 countries, covering the 1982 Falklands War, the 1996 Japanese embassy hostage crisis in Peru, two World Cups and two Olympics.
“I was very poor,” she told a Brazilian television program in 2019. “I didn’t have money to see the world. I started traveling with Globo TV, and then I made the world my playground.”
According to a Brazilian news report, Maria was the South American country’s “first black reporter to stand out on TV and to use the law against racism. That last part was a reference to the time Maria cited a 1951 Brazilian law designed to punish racial discrimination.
The first black reporter to stand out on Brazilian television, she was proud to be one of the pioneers in using the Afonso Arinos Law , from 1951, which included racial discrimination among criminal offenses. She said, in an Instagram post from 2019, that, when she was prevented from entering through the front door of a hotel in Rio, in 1970, she sued the manager, who said that black people could not enter that way. Glória called the police, the manager was sued and, being a foreigner, he was expelled from the country. When remembering the story, she reaffirmed its importance in the fight against discrimination.
Upon Maria’s death, news outlets fondly remembered a number of the high-profile interviews she conducted, including one with the legendary Michael Jackson, who was in Rio de Janeiro in 1996 and on the set of a video shoot for his hit song, “They Don’t Care About Us.”
17. Huey ‘Piano’ Smith, rock ‘n roll pianistSource:Getty
Huey “Piano” Smith, whose two-fisted keyboard style and rambunctious songs propelled the sound of New Orleans R&B into the pop Top 10 in the late 1950s, died on Feb. 13 at his home in Baton Rouge. He was 89.
His daughter Acquelyn Donsereaux confirmed his death.
Mr. Smith wrote songs that became cornerstones of New Orleans R&B and rock ’n’ roll perennials, notably “Rocking Pneumonia and the Boogie Woogie Flu,” “Don’t You Just Know It” and “Sea Cruise.”
18. Lorenzo “Lo” Jelks, pioneering TV reporter
From the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
Lorenzo “Lo” Jelks, the first Black television reporter in Atlanta, has died at age 83.
The media milestone was reached when WSB-TV hired him in 1967. He would remain with the station through 1976.
19. Thomas W. Dortch Jr.Source:Getty
Atlanta civic leader Thomas W. Dortch Jr., the chairman of the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation’s board and former leader of 100 Black Men of America, has died at the age of 72. No cause or date of Dortch’s death was immediately reported. The Georgia native was also a successful businessman in his own right.
20. Stanley Wilson Jr., former NFL playerSource:Getty
Stanley Wilson Jr., a former NFL cornerback with the Detroit Lions, died on Feb. 1 in police custody. He was just 40 years old.
Wilson Jr. had been in police custody following his vandalism arrest back in August … but according to prosecutors, he was declared incompetent to stand trial and was transferred from county jail to the Metropolitan State Hospital in Los Angeles County on Feb. 1.
But, law enforcement sources tell us during intake at the medical facility — which specializes in caring for those with mental health issues — he collapsed and died.
21. AKA, rapperSource:Getty
AKA, a South African rapper, was shot to death on Feb. 10 outside of a restaurant in the city of Durban. He was 35 years old.
The police said that AKA, 35, had been walking to his car on a popular nightlife strip shortly after 10 p.m. when two armed people approached from across the street and fired several shots at close range before running away.
AKA, whose legal name was Kiernan Forbes, and another man died at the scene, the police said. Although the police did not name the second victim, South African news reports identified him as AKA’s close friend Tebello Motsoane, a 34-year-old chef and music entrepreneur known as Tibz.
22. Roslyn Pope, civil rights leader
Roslyn Pope, who as a senior at Spelman College in Atlanta wrote a 1960 manifesto that set the stage for dramatic advances in civil rights in the city and inspired generations of activists around the country, died on Jan. 19 in Arlington, Texas. She was 84.
Spelman College confirmed the death.
23. Charlie Thomas, of the DriftersSource:Getty
Charlie Thomas, who recorded memorable songs like “There Goes My Baby” and “Under the Boardwalk” with the Drifters, the silken-voiced R&B group that had a long string of hits from 1959 to 1964 and was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall Fame, died on Jan. 31 at his home in Bowie, Md. He was 85.
The singer Peter Lemongello Jr., a close friend, said the cause was liver cancer.
Mr. Thomas, a tenor, was a Drifter for more than 60 years, from the version of the group that had its first hits in the late 1950s to the version he led and toured with until the pandemic struck.
24. Brandon SmileySource:Getty
Brandon Smiley, the son of comedian and radio host Rickey Smiley, died on Jan. 29 at the age of 32. Brandon is Rickey’s oldest son with his mother Brenda. He also has a daughter named Storm.
A comedian in his own right, Brandon was also featured in the TV One reality show “Rickey Smiley For Real.”
25. Fred White, Earth Wind & Fire drummerSource:Getty
Fred White, the drummer for the legendary R&B group Earth, Wind & Fire, died on Jan. 1. He was 67 years old.
The fourth of the White brothers to perform in Earth, Wind & Fire, Fred was one of the famous band’s early members … joining EWF way back in 1974 when he was just 19 years old.
Fred played drums on 8 different Earth, Wind & Fire albums … plus some of their biggest hit songs like “September,” “Boogie Wonderland,” “Saturday Night” and “Shining Star” … and he’s one of the 9 band members inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
26. Lynette “Diamond” HardawaySource:Getty
Lynette Hardaway, also known as one-half of the MAGA duo Diamond and Silk, died on Jan. 9.
27. Gangsta Boo, rapperSource:Getty
Lola Chantrelle “Gangsta Boo” Mitchell, who rose to prominence as part of the Three 6 Mafia collective, was found dead on New Year’s Day at a home in Memphis just hours after celebrating the end of 2022 with her family at a concert. She had been showing no signs of distress in the hours before her death, according to reports. Gangsta Boo was 43 years old.
28. Cleophas “Cleo” Orange, civil rights icon
Cleophas “Cleo” Orange, 78, died of lung disease Jan. 4. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution described her as a “mother figure” in the civil rights movement.
29. Sheldon ReynoldsSource:Getty
Sheldon Reynolds was a guitarist, songwriter, and record producer. He was born on November 18, 1955, in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Reynolds was best known for his work as a guitarist for the iconic band Earth, Wind & Fire.