In 2021, the global black community had to say goodbye to some of its illustrious brothers and sisters. As inevitable as the finality of life is, the pain of loss will be preserved in the hearts of all those who loved these wonderful people.
Those we wish to remind ourselves of are those who were involved in the service of their community and beyond, perpetuating the goodness of humankind. This list is in essence, a difficult one to make. So many fall within this category but we would like to believe our shortlist encompasses the point quite well.
Here are those prominent Black people we lost in 2021:
Cicely Tyson (December 19, 1924 – January 28, 2021)
Trailblazing and award-winning actress Cicely Tyson passed away on January 28 at the age of 96. Tyson broke down racial barriers in Hollywood in the 1960s.
With a career spanning over six decades, Tyson influenced several seasoned Black Hollywood actors and filmmakers including Angela Bassett, Oprah Winfrey, Tyler Perry, Viola Davis, Ava DuVernay, just to mention a few.
Bunny Wailer (April 10, 1947 – March 2, 2021)
Neville O’Riley Livingston, the acclaimed reggae musician and founding member of the iconic band, The Wailers, passed away in March in the Jamaican capital of Kingston. He was 73. Livingston had reportedly been in and out of the hospital after suffering a stroke in July last year.
Going by the moniker Bunny Wailer, the deceased musician teamed up with fellow reggae icons Bob Marley and Peter Tosh to form the award-winning group, The Wailers.
Sarah Onyango Obama (March 29, 2021)
Sarah Obama, the step-grandmother of former U.S. President Barack Obama, died in March. She was 99. The matriarch of former President Obama’s Kenyan family, Mama Sarah promoted education for girls and orphans in her rural Kogelo village.
“The passing away of Mama Sarah is a big blow to our nation. We’ve lost a strong, virtuous woman. A matriarch who held together the Obama family and was an icon of family values,” Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta said.
DMX (December 18, 1970 – April 9, 2021)
Legendary rapper and actor DMX passed away on April 9 following a week-long stay in ICU at a New York Hospital after suffering a cardiac arrest that was believed to have stemmed from a drug overdose.
Michael K. Williams (November 22, 1966 – September 6, 2021)
Michael K. Williams was found dead in his apartment on September 6. The 54-year-old actor reportedly died of a suspected drug overdose. Williams was famous for his role in the pioneering HBO series “The Wire” and played the character Omar Little.
Agnes Tirop (October 23, 1995 – October 13, 2021)
Kenyan Olympian Agnes Tirop was found dead in her home with stab wounds in her abdomen. She was 25.
Tirop broke the world record for the women’s 10,000-meter race in September. She represented her country at this summer’s Olympic Games in Tokyo, where she finished fourth in the 5,000m women’s finals after clocking 14:39.62.
Colin Powell (April 5, 1937 – October 18, 2021)
Former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell passed away on October 18 from COVID-19 complications. The four-star general was the first Black Secretary of State in U.S. history, serving from 2001 to 2005 under former President George W. Bush. He was 84.
Young Dolph (July 27, 1985 – November 17, 2021)
Legendary Memphis rapper Young Dolph was gunned down in his hometown while he was inside a cookie shop.
A very familiar face in his community, Young Dolph rose to prominence in 2014 following the release of his High Class Street Music 4 mixtape. His debut album, King of Memphis, was released in 2016. Three of his subsequently released albums reached Billboard 200’s top 10.
He was 36.
Malikah Shabazz (September 30, 1965 – November 22, 2021)
Malikah Shabazz, the daughter of Malcolm X, was found dead in her Brooklyn residence on November 22. One of the six daughters of the assassinated civil rights activist, Shabazz, 56, and her twin sister were born after their father was killed.
Virgil Abloh (September 30, 1980 – November 28, 2021)
Ghanaian-American fashion designer Virgil Abloh passed away on November 28 at the age of 41.
Since March 2018, the name Abloh had been keenly followed in the fashion industry. The Ghanaian American became the center of attention when he was named Louis Vuitton’s new artistic director and gave big fashion labels a run for their money with the release of Off White, the streetwear and luxury fashion label that brought an edgy twist into the fashion game.
Desmond Tutu (October 7, 1931 – December 26, 2021)
Anti-apartheid activist and Anglican priest Desmond Tutu passed away on December 26 at the age of 90. The Nobel Peace Prize laureate played a very crucial role in ending racial segregation in South Africa. He was also very instrumental during the struggle for independence in his home country.