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.
(Photo by Aurora Rose/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images)
On April 9, DMX’s (née Earl Simmons) family 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.
Photo by Evening Standard/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
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.
Photo by Rolls Press/Popperfoto via Getty Images/Getty Images)
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.
NBCUniversal via Getty Images via Getty Images
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.
Biz Markie | Photo by David Corio/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
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.
Author Eloise Greenfield | Photo by Roberto Ricciuti/Getty Images
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 September 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 September 20. She was 76.
Melvin Van Peeples
Actor, playwright, director, composer, and novelist Melvin Van Peeples passed away in his him in Manhattan on September 21. He was 89.