Updated 09/12/2023 at 12:36 p.m. ET:
Although we are nearing the end of 2023, the list of Black celebs we’ve lost continues to grow. From talented athletes to beloved entertainers, here are the Black celebrities we’ve lost in 2023.
Former NFL wide receiver Mike Williams died September 12 at the age of 36. After a construction accident that left him partially paralyzed, Williams was hospitalized in the ICU. Drafter in 2010, he played for the Tampa Buccaneers for four years and the Buffalo Bills for one.
Gus Solomons, Jr.
Accomplished choreographer, dancer, and teacher Gus Solomons Jr. died on Aug. 11 at the age of 84. He died of sudden heart failure. During his long, successful career, Solomons danced and performed with a plethora of dance companies. He was most known for becoming the first Black dancer to join the Cunningham company.
Ron Cephas Jones
Emmy-winning actor Ron Cephas Jones died on August 19 at the age of 66. He died due to a “long-standing pulmonary issue.” Known for his role in This Is Us, Jones appeared in many other notable shows and movies including Mr. Robot, The Get Down, Luke Cage, Half Nelson, Dog Days, and Dolemite Is My Name.
Chico Del Vec
Chico Del Vec, one of the founding members of the rap group Junior M.A.F.I.A., reportedly died on August 14. His cause of death has not been shared. The group was known for working closely with legendary rapper Notorious B.I.G., who was also a part of the group. Their 1995 debut album, Conspiracy, produced two successful hits: “Players Anthem” and “Get Money.”
Known as the “Black Godfather” of music and entertainment, Clarence Avant, died on August 13 at 92. No cause of death has been shared. Throughout his career as a music executive, helped start the career of many artists, most notably, Bill Withers.
Rapper Magoo died on Aug. 13 at the age of 50. No cause of death has been provided. Magoo was a Virginia MC who was a close collaborator with Timbaland. The Virginia duo worked together on many songs and even released an album together in 1997 titled, Welcome to Our World.
DJ, songwriter, and hype man DJ Casper died on August 7 at the age of 58 after a seven-year fight with cancer. While he accomplished many great things in his career, he was known for creating the popular song, “Cha Cha Slide,” which has been played at family functions for decades.
New Jersey Lieutenant Governor and trailblazing Black political Sheila Oliver died on August 1 at the age of 71. Her cause of death is still unknown. She accomplished many great things in her career, such as becoming the first Black woman to serve as speaker of the state Assembly. She was also the first Black woman to be elected Lieutenant Governor in New Jersey.
William Dilday Jr
William Dilday Jr. died on July 27 at the age of 85 due to cerebral herniation after a fall he took. He was 85. Dilday was the first Black television station manager in the entire country and one of the founders of the National Association of Black Journalists.
YNG Cheese was a Philadelphia rapper and the son of well-known podcaster Gillie Da Kid. He was killed in a triple shooting on July 20. He was only 25 years old.
Former NFL linebacker Clark Haggans died on June 19 at 46. His cause of death is still unknown. During his 13-year NFL career, Haggans played for the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Arizona Cardinals, and the San Francisco 49ers. He won a Super Bowl in 2005 as a member of the Steelers.
Ray Lewis III
Ray Lewis III, the son of NFL Hall of Famer Ray Lewis, died from a dangerous combination of drugs. He was 28. He attempted to follow in his father’s footsteps, by playing football at the University of Miami, but eventually transferred and played for Coastal Carolina and Virginia Union.
John Beasley was a veteran actor who performed in roles for more than 30 years. He died on May 30 at 79. He passed away while undergoing tests on his liver in his hometown of Omaha, Neb. He was known for his roles in Rudy, The General’s Daughter, The Purge: Anarchy, and Sinister 2.
Bill Perkins was a New York politician who served on the New York City council for the 9th district, which represented Harlem. He died on May 16 at 74. No cause of death was shared. During his career as a politician, he was known as a leader in Harlem. He was most notably known as an advocate who defended the innocence of the five boys known as the “Central Park 5.”
Larry “Gator” Rivers
Harlem Globetrotters legend Larry “Gator Rivers” died on June 29 at 73 from Cancer. While he was known as a wizard with the ball in his hands, he later became a politician, becoming a county commissioner in Savannah, GA.
Christine King Farris
The last living sibling of Dr. Martin Luther, Jr., Christine King Farris, died on June 29 at 95. She was the oldest child of Martin Luther King, Sr., and her life “overflowed with acts of service, love, and education.” Along with Coretta Scott King, she helped create the King Center and the MLK Memorial Library in June 1968.
Beloved singer Tina Turner died on May 24 at the age of 83. The “What’s Love Got To Do With It” singer had been fighting illness since 2016 when she was diagnosed with intestinal cancer in 2016. She also had a kidney transplant in 2017. Known as the “Queen of Rock and Roll,” Turner was a star in the industry since the 1960s. Throughout her career, she sold more than 180 million albums and won 12 Grammy awards.
Bill Lee, an accomplished composer, jazz bassist and the father of Spike Lee, died on Wednesday at the age of 94. While he recorded countless solo albums, he was known for his work in his son’s early movies, including “She’s Gotta Have It,” “School Daze,” “Do the Right Thing” and “Mo’ Better Blues.”
On May 19, the nation mourned the loss of another Black legend; this time it was Jim Brown. The actor and the greatest running back the NFL had ever seen, died at the age of 87. His wife made the sad announcement on Instagram. Read this loving tribute the Root wrote shortly after the announcement.
Harry Belafonte died at 96 on April 25 of congestive heart failure. Not only was he an accomplished singer, actor, and entertainer, but he was also a fierce civil rights activist. He once said, “I was an activist long before I became an artist. They both service each other, but the activism is first.”
Otis Redding III
The son of the iconic soul singer, Otis Redding III, died on April 20 at the age of 59 after a long battle with cancer. Like his father, Redding III became an artist and was a longtime member of The Redding in the 1980s along with his brother, Dexter, and cousin, Mark Lockett.
Iconic jazz pianist Ahmad Jamal died on April 16 at 92 of prostate cancer. He influenced countless jazz musicians and was a close friend of jazz legend Miles Davis when he was living.
Howell Wayans was the patriarch of the Wayans family which included accomplished actors and comedians Keenan Ivory, Damon, Shawn and Dwayne Wayans. He died at the age of 86 on April 1. Marlon shared the news of his father’s death in an emotional post on Instagram.
NBA Hall of Famer Willis Reed died at the age of 80 on March 21. No cause of death was given. As a layer, Reed played in the NBA for 11 seasons, all with the New York Knicks. During his career, he was a seven-time NBA all-star, a two-time champion, a two-time Finals MVP and an MVP.
Veteran actor Lance Reddick shockingly died on March 17 at the age of 60. The cause of death is unknown. Reddick has appeared in a plethora of TV shows and movies including, Fringe, Oz, Bosch and Lost. His most celebrated role is as Officer Cedrick Daniels on the greatest TV show ever, The Wire.
Stanley Wilson Jr.
Former NFL Stanley Wilson Jr. died at the age of 40 on Feb. 16. The entirety of his three-year professional career was spent with the Detroit Lions. According to TMZ, Wilson died while being transferred to a mental health hospital, where he collapsed
Trugoy the Dove
Born David Jude Jolicoeur, Trugoy helped form the legendary hip-hop group, De La Soul. He, unfortunately, died on Feb. 12 at the age of 54. He founded the group while in high school in Long Island N.Y. along with fellow group members Posdnuos and Maseo. The cause of his death has not been revealed.
Barret Strong was a successful singer and songwriter known for his work with Motown records. In 1959, he wrote, “Money (That’s What I Want),” and it became the first hit single for the iconic music company. His passing was confirmed on Jan. 29. He was 81.
The son of veteran radio personality Rickey Smiley, Brandon, died on Jan. 29. At the young age of 32. Rickey shared the news of his son’s death on his Instagram.
Former NFL player Jesse Lemonier died at the age of 25 on Jan. 26. After going undrafted in 2020, he played in the NFL for three years, one of which was on the practice squad. He also played for the Los Angeles Chargers, Detroit Lions, and Arizona Cardinals.
Former American Idol contestant CJ Harris suddenly died of a heart attack on Jan. 20 at the age of 31.
Longtime tap dancer Arthur Duncan was known as an “Entertainer’s Entertainer,” and performed on The Lawrence Welk Show from 1964 to 1982. Sadly, Duncan died on Jan. 3 at the age of 97 from a stroke and pneumonia.
Charles White was a former NFL player during the 1980s and one of the best college running backs in the storied history of the University of Southern California. While in college, he won the 1979 Heisman Trophy. He played in the NFL for nine seasons, five with the Cleveland Browns and four with the Los Angeles Rams. He died of liver cancer on Jan. 11 at the age of 64.
Atlanta-based gospel singer Kevin Lemons died at the age of 44 after dying in his home.
One of the founding members of the beloved R&B group, The Whispers, Gordy Harmon died on Jan. 5 at the age of 79. He died of natural causes. He founded the group in 1964 in Los Angeles along with his twin brothers, Wallace and Walter Scott, Marcus Huston and Nicholas Caldwell.
Former NFL player Uche Nwaneri died at the tail end of 2022 on Dec. 30 at the age of 38. The cause of death was a heart attack. He played seven years with the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Hip-hop pioneer Gangsta Boo died on Jan. 1 in Memphis, Tenn. at the age of 43. She was one of the key members of the southern hip-hop group, Three 6 Mafia.”
Fred White was one of the early members of Earth, Wind & Fire and was a long-time drummer for the iconic group. He died on Jan. 1 at the age of 67.
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