New years bring about new hopes and a host of annual occasions to celebrate, from birthdays to anniversaries. But with the passing of the days also comes new losses, as time spent with those we love and admire turns into memories.
As we journey through this year, each day we remember the celebrities and public figures whose lights now shine among us in a different way and the impact they’ve had on not only the entertainment industry but as public servants. Here are the stars we’ve lost in 2021.
Eric Jerome Dickey
Famed author Eric Jerome Dickey passed away from cancer at the age of 59 on Jan. 3.
Actress Marion Ramsey, known for her role as officer Laverne Hooks in the Police Academy franchise, passed away after a short illness on Jan. 7 at age 73.
Gospel singer Duranice Pace of the Pace sisters passed away at the age of 62 on Jan. 15.
On Jan. 28, award-winning actress and activist Cicely Tyson passed away at the age of 96.
American TV writer and brother of Larry Wilmore, Marc Wilmore, died on Jan. 30 at the age of 57. He had been battling COVID among other long-term health conditions.
Original Supremes member Mary Wilson died in her home at age 76 on Feb. 8.
Prince Markie Dee
Prince Markie Dee, born Mark Anthony Morales, was a member of the pioneering rap group the Fat Boys. He died on Feb. 18, one day before his 53rd birthday.
Canadian actor Jahmil French, best known for his role on Degrassi, passed away at the age of 29 on March 1.
The last living member of the Bob Marley reggae group The Wailers, Bunny Wailer, died on March 2 at 73.
Pro Boxer Marvelous Marvin Hagler died at his home at the age of 66 on March 13.
Former NBA player Elgin Baylor died of natural causes at the age of 86 on March 22.
Representative Alcee Hastings was the longest-serving member of Florida’s congressional delegation at the time of his death on April 6. He was 84.
CNN and MSNBC legal analyst and ESSENCE contributor Midwin Charles passed away unexpectedly at the age of 47 on April 6.
On April 9, the family of DMX’s (née Earl Simmons) confirms the Ruff Ryder icon succumbed at age 50 after suffering a heart attack.
Former Bad Boy rapper Black Rob passed away on April 17 at the age of 51. Just a week before his death, the “Whoa” artist shared his condolences for the passing of DMX while revealing he was in the hospital and had been dealing with health issues, from kidney failure to multiple strokes, over the past five years.
Digital Underground’s Shock G passed away on Aug. 22 at the age of 57. The rapper was found dead in a hotel in Tampa; the cause of death is currently unclear.
Comedian Paul Mooney died at the age of 79 in his home in Oakland, California after suffering a heart attack the morning of May 19.
Samuel E. Wright
Actor Samuel E. Wright, who voiced Sebastian the Crab in 1989’s The Little Mermaid, passed away May 24. Wright also appeared on screen in Bird and on Broadway in The Tap Dance Kid, The Lion King, Pippin and Jesus Christ Superstar. Fun fact: He also starred as the purple grape in the late 70s commercials for Fruit of the Loom. Wright was 74.
Lee Evans, center, raises his fist in solidarity with the Black Panther movement at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City. He won two gold medals at the games (400 meter run and 1,600 meter relay). Evans died on May 26; he was 74.
Clarence Williams III
Actor Clarence Williams III (pictured here, right with his Mod Squad costars Michael Cole and Peggy Lipton) passed away from colon cancer on June 4. Known for his groundbreaking role as Linc in the late ’60s/early ’70s action series, Williams also made memorable appearances starring in Purple Rain, Sugar Hill, Tales from the Hood and a comedic cameo in Half-Baked. He was 81.
Ayesha K. Faines
News of Ayesha K Faines death spread across social media the evening of July 5. The feminist journalist was a columnist for Zora magazine, a panelist on Grapevine TV and had been featured in ESSENCE magazine. She was also the founder of www.womenlovepower.com where she helped women tap into their natural power. Her cause of death is currently unknown.
The Parent ‘Hood star Suzzanne Douglas passed away at the age of 64 on July 6. No cause of death was revealed at the time of her passing.
Night Court star Charlie Robinson died on July 11 at the age of 75. The actor suffered a cardiac arrest and multisystem organ failure due to septic shock and metastatic adenocarcinoma.
Gloria Richardson, the civil rights pioneer whose defiant image become iconic for a new generation of Black women and men, passed away at 99 on July 15. According to the AP, Richardson “was the first woman to lead a prolonged grassroots civil rights movement outside the Deep South.”
Rapper and actor Biz Markie (née Marcel Hall) passed away on July 16 after complications from diabetes. The “Nobody Beats the Biz” rapper was known for his comical rhyming and hits “Just a Friend” and “Vapors.” He was 57.
Music producer Chucky Thompson was known for working with major artists like Diddy, Kanye West and Mary J. Blige, whose documentary, “My Life,” recently featured him. He died on Aug. 9 from COVID complications.
Author Eloise Greenfield
An award-winning children’s book author, Eloise Greenfield penned over 45 books and poetry collections including Honey I Love: And Other Poems, Africa Dream and The Women Who Caught the Babies: A Story of African-American Midwives. She won the Coretta Scott King-Virginia Hamilton Award for lifetime achievement in 2018. She passed away at 92 on Aug. 5.
Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry
Reggae legend Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry died on the morning of Aug. 29 in Noel Holmes Hospital in Lucea, Jamaica at the age of 85. Perry was known for developing dub music in the ’70s and producing tracks for Bob Marley and the Wailers, Max Romeo and the Beastie Boys, among others.
On Aug. 28, the family of ’90s R&B singer Sam Salter confirmed his recent passing at the age of 46. No cause of death was revealed for the California native who was signed to LaFace records by La Reid.
Gregg Leakes, who was married to former Real Housewives of Atlanta star Nene Leakes, passed away on September 1 at the age of 66. Gregg was diagnosed with Stage III colon cancer in 2018 and was in remission until earlier this summer when Nene shared that his cancer had returned.
Michael K. Williams
Actor Michael K. Williams was found dead in his Brooklyn apartment of a suspected overdose on Sept. 6. He was 54 years old.
Comedic actor Anthony Johnson was found unresponsive in a store in Los Angeles and rushed to a hospital where he was later pronounced dead early in the month of September. He was 55.
Sarah Dash of the legendary singing group LaBelle passed away on Sept. 20. She was 76.
Melvin Van Peeples
Actor, playwright, director, composer and novelist Melvin Van Peeples passed away in his home in Manhattan on Sept. 21. He was 89.
R&B singer-songwriter Andrea “Annie” Martin passed away on Sept. 27 at the age of 49. The Grammy Award winner was known for writing songs for major acts such as SWV, Toni Braxton, Monica, Jennifer Hudson and En Vogue.
Oz star Granville Adams died on Oct. 10 at the age of 58 after a years-long battle with cancer.
Comedian Ricarlo Flanagan, who was known for his turn on Last Comic Standing as well as his role in Shameless died the weekend of October 8 after contracting COVID-19. He was 40 years old.
Dorothy Steel died October 15 at her home in Detroit. The 95-year-old actress was known for portraying a tribal elder in Black Panther and didn’t begin acting until the age of 88. Additional acting credits included Saints and Sinners, The Oval, and Jumanji: The Next Level.
Gen. Colin Powell died on October 18 at the age of 84. The former politician and diplomat died of complications from COVID-19 at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. He had also been receiving treatment for multiple myeloma at the time of his death.
Tommy DeBarge, of the legendary DeBarge family and R&B funk band Switch, died on October 21 at the age of 64. According to family, the musical artist had suffered from kidney and liver disease for years and was admitted to the hospital a couple of weeks before his death. Tommy’s daughter Marina also told TMZ her dad battled COVID earlier in the year.
Co-founding member of The Gap Band and the eldest Wilson brother (survived by famed brothers Charlie Wilson and Robert Wilson) passed away on November 2 as the result of a sudden stroke. He was 73.
The Memphis rapper was shot and killed while visiting a cookie bakery in his hometown on November 17. He was 36 years old.
The fashion designer behind Off- White, Men’s Artistic Director for Louis Vuitton, DJ, father, and friend passed away after a very private, years-long battle with cancer on November 28th. He was 41 years old.
Rhonda Stubbins White
White, known for roles on Days of Our Lives and Tyler Perry’s Ruthless, died Monday, December 6 from cancer. She was 60 years old.
01/20/99 Black feminist Bell Hooks during interview for her new book. Said the feminist writer who argues against all racial, class or gender stereotyping, ‘Don’t take my picture so close up. That’s what White photographers do.’ CREDIT: Margaret Thomas TWP. (Photo by Margaret Thomas/The The Washington Post via Getty Images)
Leonard Hubbard, known as “Hub,” one of the founding members of hip-hop band The Roots, died on December 16 at the age of 62. Hub stopped touring with the band in 2007, the year he was diagnosed with multiple myeloma.
The legendary Jamaican bassist, known for merging funk and reggae and collaborating with some of Rock and Soul music’s finest, passed away on December 8th after receiving kidney surgery.
Hip-Hop producer and songwriter Kangol Kid, born Shaun Shiller Fequiere, died on December 18 at the age of 55 from colon cancer. Best known as a member of the Brooklyn-bred group UTFO, Kangol Kid was considered one of the pioneers of hip-hop.