In memoriam: African Americans who have died of COVID-19

Wikipedia Ellis Marsalis Jr.

The inaccurate internet memes and false online conspiracies that “Blacks can’t get coronavirus” are contrary to reality. African Americans are not immune to COVID-19.

On April 2, the Pentagon was looking to provide civilian institutions with more body bags after it was reported that over 1,000 people were reported to have died of COVID-19 in one day, April 1, in the U.S. It was the highest number of deaths in one day.  

Related story: Early data shows African Americans are contracting, dying of COVID-19 at an alarming rate

The total number of deaths in the U.S. as of April 1 was 4,841 with 214,461 total cases at a rate of 25,000 new cases per day. African Americans have not been immune from the statistics or the fatalities.

Most recently, New Orleans jazz legend Ellis Louis Marsalis Jr., and patriarch of one of the nation’s most revered jazz, which included Branford and Wynton, died Wednesday due to complications of the coronavirus.

New Orleans Mayor Latoya Cantrell paid tribute to the legendary musician on Twitter:

Jazz great Wallace Roney, 59, died of COVID-19 on March 31 in Patterson, NJ. Roney was a trumpet player and a Grammy-award winning artist mentored by Miles Davis.

Michigan has been hit particularly hard by the COVID-19 virus. A Flint, Mich. Bishop and pastor in the area both died after recently falling ill after contracting the coronavirus. Bishop Robert Smith Sr., 83, and Pastor Kevelin Jones Sr., 72, with the Bountiful Love Ministries Church of God in Flint, both had their lives cut short by COVID-19. Both died on March 26. 

Detroit bus driver Jason Hargrove, 50, whose March 21 video sounding off on a coughing passenger went viral on social media, died on Wednesday, April 1, due to the coronavirus according to the bus drivers’ union.

Activist Marlowe Stoudamire, 43, of Detroit died on March 24 from complications related to COVID-19. He was a prominent member of the Detroit community. His friends and family reported that Stoudamire had no underlying health issues.  

. Marlowe Stoudamire

Also, in Michigan, an African American father and son died after being infected by the coronavirus. Freddie Brown Jr, 57, and Freddie Brown III, 20, died on March 24 and March 29th. Both resided in Flint, Michigan. 

Dezann Romain,36, died of COVID-19 on March 23. Romain “ran a school for young people who fared better in a smaller setting; she was the first school employee in New York City to die of the coronavirus” as reported by the New York Times. Romain was respected by her students who struggled in a regular high school setting. 

Bassey Offiong, a college student at Western Michigan University, died due to coronavirus on March 28. Offiong studied engineering and was scheduled to graduate in May. His sister, Asari Offiong, told reporters that her brother was turned away multiple times for COVID-19 testing when he attempted to get tested in and around Kalamazoo.

NBC employee Larry Edgeworth, 61, died on March 19. Several NBC and MSNBC anchors paid tribute to him on the air and tweeting photos on location with him after word of his passing became public. Edgeworth was survived by his wife and two children.  

Bronx, New York nurse Freda Ocran, 50, died of COVID-19 on March 29. Ocran was the head nurse of Jacobi Medical Center’s psychiatric unit in the Bronx. She pushed for more coronavirus testing before dying of the illness. “She had concerns, especially with working with patients and other staff and how long it was taking to be tested,” said Kwame Ocran, of his mother to the NY Post. 

Another hospital worker, Priscilla Carrow, 65, died on March 30, 2020. Carrow worked as the coordinating manager at Elmhurst Hospital in Queens, NY. She was also the director of community relations with the New York Senate and an active member of her Queens, NY community.

On April 1, the Federal Emergency Management Agency requested 100,000 body bags from the Defense Department. The Pentagon is looking into purchasing more. 

Lauren Victoria Burke is an independent journalist for NNPA and the host of the podcast BURKEFILE. She is also a political strategist as Principal of Win Digital Media LLC. She may be contacted at and on twitter at @LVBurke. She has appeared on CNN, MSNBC and RolandMartinUnfiltered.