In 2022, 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 2022:
Sidney Poitier, 94
Sidney Poitier, the trailblazing Bahamian-American Hollywood star and the first Black man to win an Oscar for best actor, passed away on January 6. Poitier broke racial barriers in the American film industry as his onscreen persona and undeniable talent made him the first Black movie star in Hollywood. Poitier became the first Black man to win an Oscar for Best Actor for his 1963 film, Lilies of the Field.
Charles McGee, 102
Charles McGee was one of the last surviving pilots of the famed Tuskegee Airmen. McGee died peacefully in his sleep on January 16, his family announced at the time.
Serving at a time when the American Army was segregated, the Tuskegee Airmen were the first African-American aviators in America. The 332nd Fighter Group and the 99th Pursuit Squadron were the only black groups that fought in World War II and were considered highly successful despite facing discrimination in and out of the army.
McGee was born in Cleveland on December 7, 1919. He served as a pilot for the Tuskegee Airmen during World War II. He was also behind the cockpit as an Air Force fighter pilot during the North Korean and Vietnam wars. McGee was a member of the renowned “Red Tails Squadron” that was tasked to protect the Eighth Air Force bombers.
Trained at the Tuskegee Army Air Field in Alabama, they flew more than 15,000 individual sorties in Europe and North Africa during World War II.
André Leon Talley, 73
Former Vogue magazine editor-at-large André Leon Talley died on January 18. Over the past five decades as an international icon, Talley was a close confidant of Yves Saint Laurent, Karl Lagerfeld, Paloma Picasso, Talley’s representatives, TAA PR said in a statement announcing his death. The statement added that he had a penchant for discovering, nurturing and celebrating young designers.
Talley, who was a regular in the front row of fashion shows in New York and Europe, also campaigned for diversity in the fashion world.
Lusia Harris, 66
Lusia Harris, the only woman to be officially drafted by an NBA team, also died on January 18. Regarded as a trailblazer in women’s basketball, Harris also wrote her name in Women’s Olympic Basketball history after scoring the tournament’s first-ever points.
At the time Harris was drafted by the New Orleans Jazz, a professional league for women was yet to be established, and NBA teams were allowed to have female players on their rosters if they were deemed good enough to play.
Harris was featured in a 2021 short film that focused on the pioneering athlete’s basketball career. The project is titled The Queen of Basketball.
Betty Davis, 77
Regarded as a funk music trailblazer, Betty Davis died on February 9. Davis, who was also once married to jazz legend Miles Davis, amassed a cult following with her sexually themed lyrics, Rolling Stone reported.
Jamal Edwards, 31
A pioneering British entrepreneur who founded the popular online media channel, SBTV, Jamal Edwards passed away on February 20. At the time of his death, Edwards’ mother, Brenda Edwards, said her son passed away after a “sudden illness.” She later revealed her son died after suffering cardiac arrhythmia that was caused “by having taken recreational drugs.”
Jamal rose to stardom in 2006 after launching SmokeyBarz TV (SBTV), PEOPLE reported. Through that platform, Jamal cast spotlights on music prodigies and helped launch their careers. Some of these artists have since gone mainstream.
Cheslie Kryst, 30
The former Miss USA and North Carolina native was a lawyer by profession, and she worked on pro bono cases for prisoners who may have been unfairly incarcerated. She also held three degrees from two universities.
Nichelle Nichols, 89
Actress, dancer, and singer Nichelle Nichols died on July 30. Nichols began her stint in show business as a singer and dancer singing with Duke Ellington and Lionel Hampton and touring the world. However, when buddy Gene Roddenberry offered her a role in the popular sci-fi television show Star Trek in the 1960s, it marked a critical point in her career and life.
Nichols may not have made history or pushed social and political boundaries had it not been for civil rights icon Martin Luther King, Jr. She wanted to quit Star Trek to go sing on Broadway but King told her to stay after the two had met at an NAACP fundraiser in California. In one of her interviews, Nichols said King had told her how important her character was to civil rights.
Bill Russell, 88
NBA legend and champion Bill Russell passed away on July 31. Russell had a memorable time with the Boston Celtics where he won 11 championships. Personally, Russell was voted Most Valuable Player (MVP) five times as well as making the All-Star rooster, 12 times.
The deceased Hall of Famer is also remembered for being a staunch civil rights activist.
Bernard Shaw, 82
Bernard Shaw was the lead prime-time anchor on CNN for 2 decades. The prominent journalist passed away on September 7. Shaw is remembered as one of the first Black television anchors. Prior to joining CNN in 1980, Shaw was an ABC News co-anchor.
Pharoah Sanders, 81
Pharoah Sanders, a renowned jazz saxophonist, passed away on September 24. A Grammy winner, Sanders released over 30 albums during his career, CNN reported. Sanders also worked with legendary and influential jazz musician John Coltrane.
Coolio is best remembered for his 1995 hit song Gangsta’s Paradise. The 1995 hit song was the soundtrack for the Dangerous Minds film, and it took the number one spot on the Billboard Hot 100 for three weeks, per Variety. The song also earned the rapper a Grammy award for best rap solo performance.
Migos rap group member Takeoff was fatally shot and killed at a bowling alley in Houston on November 1. The deceased rapper, born Kirshnik Khari Ball, was with fellow band member Quavo when the incident occurred. And the shooting reportedly happened following a confrontation after a dice game.
In the wake of his killing, police said Takeoff was a bystander who had nothing to do with the altercation. “I can tell you that Takeoff was not involved in playing the dice game. He was not involved in the argument that happened outside. He was not armed,” HPD Homicide Division Sgt. Michael Burrow said in an address to reporters.
Stephen “tWitch” Boss, 40
Remembered as a DJ on the “Ellen DeGeneres Show”, Stephen “tWitch” Boss died on December 13. Boss, who also shot into the limelight after competing in “So You Think You Can Dance”, was found dead in a motel room that he had checked into.
The dancer’s death was ruled as suicide from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.
Brazil football legend Pele died on December 29 at the age of 82, his family confirmed. Pele had been battling colon cancer and was being treated for cardiac and renal dysfunction in the hospital. “Everything we are is thanks to you. We love you infinitely. Rest in peace,” his daughter Kely Nascimento wrote on Instagram.
Charlene Mitchell, 92
Before Shirley Chisholm, 38-year-old Charlene Mitchell of Ohio was the first Black woman to run for U.S. president in 1968. She entered the 1968 presidential race on the Communist Party ticket with her running mate being Michael Zagarell, the party’s national youth director.
Her campaign focused on poverty and civil rights but she failed to make it as many states at the time did not allow communists on the ballot. At the end of the day, she appeared on the ballot in two states, receiving just 1,075 votes. Being Black and female also didn’t get her the votes. Five decades after making history, Mitchell passed away in a nursing home in Manhattan on December 14, 2022. She was 92.