“In a gentle way, you can shake the world.”– Mahatma Gandhi, activist
From lives cut short to violence or disease to elders who passed peacefully in their sleep, 2021 saw its share of painful goodbyes. Here we’ve highlighted just a few notable national figures who left this world in 2021, but whose legacies will continue to live on.
(Top row, l-r): Baseball and civil rights giant Henry “Hammerin’ Hank” Aaron died on January 22 at age 86; pioneering movie icon Cicely Tyson, 96, passed away from heart problems on January 28; Mary Wilson of The Supremes fame, passed away on February 8 at age 76; Vernon Jordan, the former National Urban League president and civil rights icon died on March 1 at 85; rap icon DMX, whose real name was Earl Simmons, died of a heart attack on April 9; Paul Mooney, 79, known as the “godfather of Black comedy,” died at home on May 19 of a sudden heart attack.
(Middle row, l-r): Veteran actor Clarence Williams of “Mod Squad” and “Purple Rain” fame, died on June 4 at age 81 from colon cancer; actress Suzzanne Douglas, 64, star of “The Parent ‘Hood” and numerous other movies, died of cancer on July 6; actor Charlie Robinson, 75 of “Night Court” fame, died of cardiac arrest on July 11; rapper Biz Markie, 57, known for playful rhymes and beatboxing, died on July 16 due to complications of diabetes; TV and film actor Michael K. Williams, 57, of “The Wire” fame died on September 6 of an accidental drug overdose; General Colin Powell, 84, passed away on October 18 due to complications of COVID-19.
(Bottom row, l-r): Ronnie Wilson, 73, multi-instrumentalist, who founded the famed Gap Band with brother Charlie Wilson, died of a stroke on November 3; Memphis rapper Young Dolph, 36, born Robert Thornton Jr., was shot and killed on November 17; pioneering designer Virgil Abloh, 41, passed away on November 28 after privately battling cancer; legendary golfer Lee Elder, the first Black player to compete in the Masters, died on November 28 at age 87; trailblazing feminist, author, professor, and social activist bell hooks, 69, also known as Gloria Jean Watkins, died of kidney failure on December 15; Archbishop Desmond Tutu, 90, who earned the moniker “the nation’s conscience” for fighting South Africa’s apartheid, died after a long battle with prostate cancer on December 26.