Opinions & Features

Prominent Black people we sadly lost in 2023

Just like any other year, 2023 saw some of our prominent Black figures in various fields of endeavors passing away. Though they may be gone, the legacies that they paved and left behind will forever remain and be remembered.

This list is in essence, a difficult one to make, but below are those prominent Black people we lost in 2023:

André Braugher — Photo Credit: John Mathew Smith & www.celebrity-photos.com

André Braugher

Remembered for playing Det. Frank Pembleton in NBC’s Homicide: Life on the Street, Emmy award-winning actor André Braugher died on December 11 at the age of 61. Per The Hollywood Reporter, Braugher, who also played Capt. Raymond Holt in Fox-NBC sitcom Brooklyn Nine-Nine, succumbed to lung cancer.

Benjamin Zephaniah — Photo Credit: David Morris

Benjamin Zephaniah

British actor Benjamin Zephaniah passed away on December 7 at the age of 65. Zephaniah is remembered for playing Jeremiah “Jimmy” Jesus in Peaky Blinders, a British crime drama television series.

Outside acting, Zephaniah was also a writer, poet, musician, and professor of poetry and creative writing. His poetry usually centered on political injustice, The Guardian reported. Zephaniah died eight weeks after he was diagnosed with a brain tumor.

George Brown — Photo via @georgebrown_KG on Instagram

George Brown

A co-founder of the legendary Kool & The Gang band, George Brown passed away on November 17 at the age of 74. Universal Music in a statement said the legendary drummer and songwriter died of lung cancer, The Associated Press reported.

Brown co-wrote hit songs including “Too Hot,” “Ladies Night,” “Joanna” and “Celebration.”

Richard Roundtree — Photo Credit: U.S. NAVY

Richard Roundtree

Actor Richard Roundtree died on October 24 at the age of 81. Roundtree is remembered for his role in Shaft, a character regarded as one of the first Black action protagonists, The New York Times reported.

Roundtree’s manager said he died of pancreatic cancer.

Nashawn Breedlove — Image via Universal Pictures

Nashawn Breedlove

Nashawn Breedlove, the rapper, singer, songwriter, and actor, who played Lotto in 8 Mile and faced Eminem in a rap battle scene in the movie, passed away on September 24 at the age of 46.

His cause of death was, however, not disclosed.

Ron Cephas Jones — Photo Credit: Chris Roth

Ron Cephas Jones

Actor and Emmy award-winner Ron Cephas Jones died on August 19 at the age of 66. Jones, who played William “Shakespeare” Hill in the drama series This is Us, died as a result of a long-standing pulmonary issue”, his manager said, per CBS News.


Melvin “Magoo” Barcliff, the rapper who formed a band with fellow musician Timbaland, died on August 13 at the age of 50. The Timbaland and Magoo duo released three albums with hit singles including “ Luv 2 Luv U,”  “Cop That S***” and “Indian Flute.”

His cause of death was not disclosed.

Clarence Avant

Known as the “Godfather of Black Music”, Clarence Avant passed away on August 13 at the age of 92. In a statement, Avant’s family said the renowned music executive and film producer died “gently at home in Los Angeles”, NPR reported.

A revered figure in the entertainment industry, Avant worked with artists including Bill Withers and Michael Jackson. He also served as the chairman of Motown Records and worked with sports legends such as Muhammad Ali, Hank Aaron, Jackie Robinson, and Jim Brown.

DJ Casper — Photo Credit: Fuzzy Gerdes

DJ Casper

DJ Casper, the Chicago musician whose “Cha Cha Slide” song became a worldwide hit following its release in 2000, passed away on August 7 after a lengthy battle with cancer. The deceased disc jockey, hype man, and songwriter was 58.

Following its release in August 2000, “Cha Cha Slide” featured on the Billboard Hot 100 for five weeks and has remained a global hit.

Tina Turner — Photo Credit: Philip Spittle

Tina Turner 

Soul and Rock and Roll legend Tina Turner died on May 24 at the age of 83 following a long illness in her home near Zurich, Switzerland. Turner, who last officially toured in 2009, was born Anna Mae Bullock on November 26, 1939. She rose to fame as a backup singer in Ike Turner’s King of Rhythm band in 1958. She later became one half of the prestigious duo, the Ike & Tina Turner Revue.

Her illustrious career includes record sales surpassing 200 million, earning 12 Grammys and receiving a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, she also holds the Guinness World Record for selling more concert tickets than any other solo performer in history.

Jim Brown — Photo Credit: Topps

Jim Brown 

NFL legend and Civil Rights activist Jim Brown passed away on May 18 at the age of 87. Regarded as one of the greatest players in NFL history, Brown played for the Cleveland Browns from 1957 to 1965. He won an NFL championship with the franchise in 1964.

Outside sports, Brown was also actively involved in the civil rights movement. He was also an actor. Brown is said to have “peacefully passed” in his Los Angeles home, ESPN reported.

BERLIN, GERMANY – FEBRUARY 12: Actor and singer Harry Belafonte attends the ‘Sing Your Song’ Photocall during of the 61st Berlin Film Festival at the Grand Hyatt on February 12, 2011 in Berlin, Germany. (71069023)

Harry Belafonte

Harry Belafonte, the iconic singer, actor, and activist, passed away at the age of 96 on April 25, leaving behind a legacy of social justice and civil rights advocacy that will be remembered for generations to come. Belafonte was one of the most prominent voices in the black community, using his platform to speak out against racial injustice and inequality in America.

Lance Reddick — Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore

Lance Reddick 

Fondly remembered for his roles in movies including John Wick and The Wire, actor Lance Reddick died on March 17 at the age of 60. His cause of death was ruled as Ischemic Heart Disease and Atherosclerotic Coronary Artery Disease. But his lawyer in a statement said “information appearing on the death certificate is wholly inconsistent with his lifestyle”, Deadline reported.

Gangsta Boo — Photo via @missyeahoe on Instagram

Gangsta Boo

Lola Chantrelle Mitchell, the rapper who went by the stage name Gangsta Boo, died on January 1 at the age of 43. The Memphis rapper and Three 6 Mafia member died of an accidental overdose, Billboard reported.

The legendary rapper became a member of Three 6 Mafia in 1994. She was 15 at the time. She released her debut album, Enquiring Minds, in 1998, and it featured her biggest hit song, Where Dem Dollas At?

Francis Akhalbey

A reader once told me I lack the emotional maturity to cope with mythological breasts. I support Manchester United, by the way. And L.A. Lakers.

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