By Geona Barrow
If the past two years have taught us anything, it’s that time really isn’t forever. From a pandemic that continues to impact the community to an epidemic of gun violence that has done its own damage, this year has left us reeling and feeling a collective sense of loss.
As a rough year ends, The OBSERVER takes a minute to reflect and acknowledge a few of those who went on to glory in 2022. They are gone, but not forgotten.
Iconic actor and screenwriter Max Julien died Jan. 1, his 88th birthday, in Los Angeles. Julien starred in the 1973 cult classic blaxploitation film “The Mack” and wrote another, “Cleopatra Jones.”
Clifton Ryan, a calypso singer from Trinidad and Tobago known as the Mighty Bomber, died Jan. 1. Ryan was 93.
Nigerian bishop Paul Adegboyega Olawoore died Jan. 1. He was 60.
Sultan Banks, a San Jose hip-hop producer and innovator known as Traxamillion, died of rare cancer Jan. 2. Banks, 42, worked with fellow Bay Area artists such as E-40, Keak da Sneak and Drew Deezy.
Trinidad and Tobago calypso singer Kenwrick Joseph died Jan. 2. Joseph, 69, performed as Kenny J and also served as his nation’s assistant superintendent of police.
Former Denver Broncos wide receiver Odell Carl Barry died of heart disease Jan. 3 at age 80. Barry played with the Broncos in 1964-1965. After leaving the NFL, Barry served as the mayor of Northglenn, Colorado, and as a delegate to the 1980 Democratic National Convention.
Ross Dean Browner, a college football hall of famer who spent 10 years in the NFL, including time with the Cincinnati Bengals, died Jan. 4. Browner was 67.
Jessie Lee Daniels, a founding member of the R&B group the Force MDs, died Jan. 4. The group had hits with such songs as “Tender Love,” “Love Is a House” and “Touch and Go.” Daniels was 58.
Darryl T. Owens, a former Democratic member of the Kentucky House of Representatives, died Jan. 4. Owens was 84.
Tonayja Coker, a local 23-year-old mother, was killed Jan. 4 by a hit-and-run driver near Garden Highway and Northgate Boulevard.
Prior to his death Jan. 5, Lawrence Brooks, 112, had the distinction of being known as the oldest living man in the United States. An army veteran, the New Orleans supercentenarian also was the longest-living known American World War II veteran.
Legendary actor Sidney Poitier, 94, took his final bow Jan. 6. In 1964, Poitier, a native of the Bahamas, was the first Black actor to win an Oscar. He was known for breaking barriers in Hollywood and his lengthy credits included classic performances in such films as “A Raisin in the Sun,” “Porgy and Bess,” “To Sir, with Love,” “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner,” and “In the Heat of the Night.”
Longtime local broadcast photojournalist Shawki Moore died Jan. 6; he had been recovering from a major stroke. Moore also was an ordained minister and was known to put down his camera and compassionately pray with people who were experiencing the tragedies he was covering.
Calvin Eugene Simon, an original member of the iconic bands Parliament and Funkadelic died Jan. 6. Simon, 79, sang on hits like “Tear the Roof Off the Sucka” and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with other P-Funk members in 1997. He went on to perform gospel music before retiring in 2019.
Clive Alexander, a pioneer Trinidad and Tobago extempo and kaiso jazz musician known as Clive Zanda, died Jan. 6. He was 82.
Barbara J. Jacket, a former women’s track and field head coach for Prairie View A&M, died Jan. 6 at age 87. Jacket won 10 National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics titles at the HBCU and later served as its athletic director. In 1992 she became the second African American to serve as an Olympic head coach for the U.S. team. Jacket was inducted into the International Women’s Sports Hall of Fame in 1995.
Legal scholar and voting rights champion Lani Guinier died of Alzheimer’s disease Jan. 7. Guinier was 71.
Jazz and R&B musician James Forman, better known as James Mtume, died Jan. 9, just days after his 75th birthday. Mtume was a songwriter, producer and activist who worked with Miles Davis in the 1970s. His hit song “Juicy Fruit” has been widely sampled by artists such as Chris Brown, Tamar Braxton, Warren G, and Keyshia Cole.
Ronettes singer Ronnie Spector died Jan. 12 at the age of 78. Spector had hits in the 1960s with songs like “Be My Baby” and “Baby I Love You.” The Ronnettes were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2007.
Local 10-year-old Onaiya Mei Lee passed away Jan. 12 after being diagnosed with an aggressive rare form of pancreatitis.
Local teen Alynia “Lena” Lawrence was fatally shot Jan. 13 while sitting in a car parked near Stockton Boulevard. Local activists joined Lawrence’s family in demanding answers and calling for an end to violence against area young women.
Wilfred Cyprian Harvey, the first African American to serve as a chief equipment manager for PG&E, died Jan. 14. Harvey, 88, was the utility company’s first African American Affirmative Action manager, creating opportunities for other minority employees. The Oakland activist was the father of local spiritual leader Minister Imhotep Alkebulan.
Carol Speed, who was known for roles in such blaxploitation-era movies as “Abby” and “The Mack,” died Jan. 14. Speed, 76, also starred in “Dynamite Brothers” “Black Samson” and TV shows like “Julia,” and “Sanford and Son.”
Tiana Huddleston, an 8-year-old old Wisconsin girl, was shot and killed Jan. 15. The autistic child’s father, Michael Anthony Huddleston, originally told police he was demonstrating gun safety when the weapon went off. He later said he was intoxicated when his daughter got a hold of the gun and accidentally shot herself. He was sentenced to 20 years for reckless homicide.
Brig. Gen. Charles McGee, who fought and defied racism as a pilot in four wars, died in Maryland on Jan. 16. McGee, 102, was one of the last living Tuskegee Airmen. He was the recipient of many honors including the Distinguished Flying Cross with two oak leaf clusters, the Bronze Star and a Congressional Gold Medal.
Fashion icon Andre Leon Talley died of COVID-19 in a White Plains, New York, hospital Jan. 18. Talley, 73, served as creative director for Vogue magazine and counted among his friends and confidantes notable designers such as Yves Saint Laurent, Diane von Furstenberg, Bethann Hardison and Manolo Blahnik.
Lusia Harris, the first and only woman to be drafted into the NBA, died Jan. 18 in her native Mississippi. Harris, 66, was the first woman to score in an Olympic game and the first Black woman inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.
Ian Alexander Jr. the son of award-winning actress/director Regina King, died by an apparent suicide Jan. 21. Alexander was a DJ and singer-songwriter who performed under the name Desduné. He was 26.
Bill Owens, the first African American in the Massachusetts Senate, died Jan. 22. Owens was 84.
Kevin Ward, the mayor of Hyattsville, Maryland, an urban area near Washington, D.C, was found dead Jan. 25 of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound. Ward was 44.
Moses J. Moseley, a young actor who appeared in “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” and TV’s “Queen of the South” and “The Walking Dead” died Jan. 26. Moseley was 31.
Miss USA 2019 Cheslie Kryst jumped from the 29th floor balcony of her New York City apartment Jan. 30. A correspondent for the long-running TV show “Extra,” Kryst, 30, was described as “gorgeous and gifted” with the “world at her feet.” Sadly, she also battled with depression.
Mississippi soul musicians and brothers Syl and Jimmy Johnson died a week apart. Jimmy, 93, passed away Jan. 31 and Syl, 89, passed away Feb. 6.
Tahjay Dobson, 22, an up-and-coming rapper who went by the name Tdott Woo, was shot and killed outside his Brooklyn home Feb. 1.
Shakira Gatlin, a 19-year-old who performed with the Dancing Dolls from the TV show “Bring It” was killed in Jackson, Mississippi, on Feb. 2 by an underage male who was “mishandling a gun.” Gatlin’s death came just months before another DD4L performer, Dyseha Upshaw, also died.
Theodora “Teddie” Carter-Brazelton, a beloved music leader at Sacramento’s Capitol City Seventh-day Adventist Church, passed away Feb. 3. Carter-Brazelton, 67, grew up singing in family gospel groups, later led several choirs at the local church and lent her voice to a number of mass choirs and convocations. She was called the “choir mother of Sacramento.”
Alphonse Williams, nephew of tennis greats Venus and Serena Williams, died by an apparent suicide Feb. 3. Williams, 21, reportedly suffered from a number of mental and physical health issues.
California Golden Bears basketball legend Gene Ransom was killed in a shooting on an Oakland freeway Feb. 4. Ransom was 65.
Funk and soul songstress Betty Davis died of natural causes Feb. 9. Davis, 77, once was married to jazz legend Miles Davis.
Carol Wright, daughter of Sacramento’s first Black fire chief, died Feb. 17. Wright, 65, was a mediator and consultant who co-led a “Can We Chat” series on race and racial tension.
Priscilla Murray, the mother of singer-actor Tyrese Gibson, died from complications of COVID-19 and pneumonia Feb. 17.
Tracy Gaeta, 54, was shot and killed by a Stockton K-9 police officer Feb. 22 after she reportedly backed her car into a police vehicle at a red light. Bodycam footage showed the officer firing more than 30 shots into her car.
Thought-provoking Los Angeles mural artist Noni Olabisi died March 1. Olabisi, 67, used her art to bring awareness to issues impacting the Black community, particularly police violence.
Johnny Brown, best known for his role as Bookman on the classic show “Good Times,” died March 2. Brown was 84.
Education champion and civil servant Brenda Harris, 71, died March 5 after a brief illness. Harris influenced state policy as a consultant with the California Department of Education and an advisor to the California State Board of Education. She was a former professor at Sacramento State and also taught elementary, middle and high school.
Elder Leon T. Jones of Sacramento’s Progressive Church of God in Christ died March 8. Jones, 90, was a veteran who enlisted in the U.S. Army at age 14. He served on the front line in World World II and Korea, and earned a Purple Heart and three Bronze Stars for heroic actions.
Singer and reality TV personality Traci Braxton lost her battle with cancer March 12. Braxton, 50, gained fans performing with and appearing alongside sisters Toni, Trina and Tamar on the show “Braxton Family Values.”
San Jose police officer DeJon Packer was found dead in his Milpitas home from a fentanyl overdose March 13. Packer, 24, played football for San Jose State and had only graduated from the San Jose police academy in 2021, having become an officer “to make a difference” as a Black man within the force.
Los Angeles jazz performer and icon Barbara Morrison, 72, died March 16. Morrison was a champion for the preservation of jazz music and the contribution of African Americans to the genre. She founded a performing arts center in Leimert Park.
Inderkum High School basketball player Anthony Williams was hit and killed in Rocklin March 19 by former Placer County Executive Todd Leopold, who would not face criminal charges. The decision to not charge Leopold came after the county district attorney’s office said there was “insufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a crime occurred.”
Renowned gospel singer and songwriter LaShun Pace died of kidney failure March 21. Pace, 60, enjoyed a solo career and also performed with her siblings as The Anointed Pace Sisters. She gave powerhouse performances of songs such as “I Know I’ve Been Changed,” and “There’s a Leak in This Old Building.”
Former Sacramento teacher Hester Snider died March 25 at the age of 90. Snider taught many students who went on to become community mentors. In recent years she was a romance novelist.
Gun violence hit home early the morning of April 3 with a mass shooting in downtown Sacramento. The “K Street shooting” claimed the lives of six individuals: Johntaya Alexander, 21; Melinda Davis, 57; Joshua Hoye-Lucchesi, 32; Sergio Harris, 38; Yamile Martinez-Andrade, 21; and De’Vazia Turner, 29.
NFL quarterback Dwayne Haskins died in a hit-and-run in South Florida on April 9. Haskins, just 24 years old, played for the Washington Redskins and the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Champion bodybuilder Cedric McMillan, 44, died April 12 of COVID-19 complications after being in a car accident.
Clark-Atlanta University’s founding president emeritus, Dr. Thomas W. Cole Jr., died April 14. Dr. Cole, 81, was a former chemistry professor and research scientist.
New York hip-hop pioneer DJ Kay Slay died of COVID-19 April 17. He was 55.
Roderick “Pooh” Clark, who performed with the 1990s group Hi-Five, died in Waco, Texas, on April 18. Clark, 49, had been paralyzed since a 1993 car accident.
Former NFL player and Sacramento native Ralph Deloach died April 21 at age 65. After a brief NFL career, Deloach became a probation officer.
Former Sacramento pastor Bishop Michael Davis died April 22.
Popular Sacramento cosmetologist Michael David Burnett, 67, passed away April 30. Burnett, an award-winning hair stylist, and his sister launched Premier International Salon in South Sacramento in 1994 where they created the popular hair and fashion show known locally as “The Show.”
Controversial relationship commentator and podcaster Kevin Samuels collapsed suddenly and passed away in Atlanta on May 5. According to a coroner, Samuels, 53, died of hypertension.
Jewell Caples, a singer known as “the First Lady of Death Row Records” died May 6 at age 53. Caples also authored a memoir titled, “My Blood My Sweat My Tears,” which chronicled her career, including providing vocals for artists like Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg and Tupac Shakur.
Adreian Payne, a former professional basketball player for the Atlanta Hawks, Minnesota Timberwolves and Orlando Magic, was shot and killed in Orlando on May 9. Payne was 31.
Basketball Hall of Famer Bob Lanier died May 10. The eight-time NBA All-Star was 73. Lanier played for the Detroit Pistons and the Milwaukee Bucks and later coached the Golden State Warriors.
South Carolina social justice activist Dr. Sonya Lewis was killed in a hit-and-run May 7. Dr. Lewis advocated for education and affordable housing and helped survivors of domestic violence and sexual trauma.
In an act of hatred and domestic terror, 18-year-old White supremacist Peyton Gendron opened fire outside a grocery store in Buffalo, New York, on May 14. The victims – all Black – were Celestine Chaney, 65; Roberta Drury, 32; Andre Mackniel, 53; Katherine Massey, 72; Margus Morrison, 52; Heyward Patterson, 67; Geraldine Talley, 62; security guard Aaron Salter, 55; Ruth Whitfield, 86; and Pearl Young, 77. The gunman wrote racial slurs on his rifle and taunts such as “Here is your reparations.”
Jazz and funk musician Bernard Wright was struck by a vehicle and killed May 19 in Dallas. Wright, 58, was known for his 1983 hit song “Who Do You Love,” which has been sampled by rappers such as Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg and fellow New York native LL Cool J.
Tytyana Miller, the 25-year-old daughter of rapper-entrepreneur Master P, died of accidental fentanyl intoxication May 27, according to the Los Angeles County medical examiner.
Dr. Samella Lewis, the “godmother of Black art” died May 27 at age 99. The pioneering visual artist’s work and activism was influenced by the civil rights and Black liberation movements. She was the founder of Los Angeles’ Museum of African American Art. Shonna McDaniels, founder of Sacramento’s Sojourner Truth African Heritage Museum, named a gallery in Dr. Lewis’ honor in 2021 and has vowed to keep her legacy alive.
Former Dallas Cowboys and Chicago Bears running back Marion Barber III was found dead of heatstroke in his Frisco, Texas, apartment June 1. Barber, 38, was known to exercise in sauna-like conditions.
Two young brothers, Zy’Aire Mitchell, 12, and LaMar Mitchell, 9, died in Flint, Michigan, June 1 and June 3 after a White firefighter failed to clear their house in late May. The children were asleep and initially missed by the responder who was later found to have knowingly made false reports about checking all the rooms in the house.
Caltrans maintenance worker Quanda McGadney was struck and killed by a vehicle June 3 while working along I-80 near Vacaville. McGadney was 51.
Former Oakland Unified School District superintendent Dr. Ruth Love died June 6 at age 90. Love also was the first Black superintendent for the Chicago Public Schools system.
Thomas McLiechey, a fifth-generation grandson of famed Black abolitionist Sojourner Truth, died June 6 in Battle Creek, Michigan. McLeichey was 82 years old.
Former Sacramento Kings forward Caleb Swanigan, 25, died June 20 in a Fort Wayne, Indiana, hospital. Swanigan was a former Big Ten Player of the Year and an NCAA All-American.
Eric M. Rigard, a Republican candidate for the state assembly died, June 21. Rigard, 65, was vying for the District 10 seat at the time of his death. He also was active in ministry at Calvary Christian Center.
Alexander Jefferson, a member of the celebrated Tuskegee Airmen during World War II, died in Detroit on June 22. Jefferson was 100. The city plans to honor the centenarian hero with the Lt. Col. Alexander Jefferson Plaza at a park where he flew model airplanes as a child. Jefferson flew 18 missions before he was shot down and held as a prisoner of war for eight months in 1944-45. After his valiant service, Jefferson became a teacher and school principal.
Black inventor Dr. Willie Morrow died June 22 in San Diego. Dr. Morrow, 82, is credited with creating the Afro-pick, a blow-out comb that attaches to a blow dryer to straighten African American hair and the California curl, a precursor to the popular Jheri curl style. He also published the San Diego Monitor newspaper and ran the city’s 92.5 FM radio station.
Gregory “Najee” Grimes became a victim of Sacramento’s deadly summer when he was shot and killed early July 4 while leaving an L Street nightclub. Grimes, 31, was a local high school and college football phenom who returned home to touch the lives of youth and other athletes, working with the Roberts Family Development Center and his alma mater, Inderkum High School.
Atlanta artist, educator and author Michael D. Harris died of cancer July 11. Harris, 73, was a founding member of the artist collective AfriCOBRA. He researched art of the African diaspora and taught at Emory University, University of North Carolina, Duke University, Wellesley College, Spelman College and Morehouse College.
William Hart, lead singer and songwriter for the classic group the Delfonics died July 14 in Philadelphia. Hart was 77. The group had hits such as “La-La (Means I Love You)” and “Didn’t I (Blow Your Mind This Time).” Their classic sound has been sampled by hip-hop era artists such as Fugees and Missy Elliot.
Stand-up comic and writer Jak Knight was found dead July 14 in Los Angeles. Knight, 28, appeared in Netflix’s animated sitcom “Big Mouth” and Peacock’s comedy series “Bust Down.” Authorities ruled his death a suicide by gunshot.
Vincent Parks, a Jonesboro, Arkansas, police officer died July 17 after becoming ill during training exercises. Parks was 38. A criminal investigation was launched in the Black officer’s death based on “statements contrary to the initial facts reported.”
Bass player and vocalist Michael Henderson died July 19, two weeks after his 71st birthday. The musician was known for collaborations with Miles Davis, Stevie Wonder and the Dramatics.
Shonka Dukureh, who played the pioneering musician Big Mama Thornton in the 2022 movie “Elvis,” died of heart disease July 21 in her Nashville, Tennessee, apartment. Dukureh was 44.
AfriCOBRA artist Nelson Stevens died July 22 at age 84. Stevens was a veteran activist and teacher who served as a professor of art at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst for more than 30 years. His death came just 11 days after that of fellow AfriCOBRA artist Michael D. Harris.
Award-winning actress Mary Alice, best known for her roles on “A Different World” and “Sparkle,” passed away July 27. She was 85. Alice is best known for portraying Leticia “Lettie” Bostic on NBC’s “A Different World” and Effie Williams in the 1976 original version of “Sparkle,” which told the story of how the Supremes achieved fame. She also played the Oracle in “The Matrix Revolutions” and Marguerite Peck in “I’ll Fly Away,” for which she received the Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series. In 1987, she won a Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Play for her role in August Wilson’s “Fences.”
Groundbreaking actress Nichelle Nichols, who starred as communications officer Lt. Nyota Uhura on the original “Star Trek” television series from 1966-1969, passed away July 30. She was 89. The role broke barriers as the beautiful Nichols shared an on-screen kiss with co-star William Shatner – delivering the first interracial kiss on prime-time television. The show brought people of all backgrounds to their TV screens to watch the popular series. Nichols’ portrayal of Lt. Uhura inspired a generation of Blacks such as NASA astronaut Mae Jemison to get interested in space travel.
Area senior Carol Williams died July 30. A ballerina who danced with Judith Jamison in her younger years, Williams supported the efforts of former prima ballerina, NaTalia Johnson to bring classical dance to Black and brown children in Sacramento before she died suddenly in 2021. Williams, 78, was also a devoted member of Unity of Sacramento church where she served on the church’s welcoming committee and as a prayer chaplain. Her pastor, Rev. Kevin Ross called her a “beloved matriarch and community pillar.”
Heather Gray, an executive producer for the daytime CBS show “The Talk,” died July 31 in Los Angeles of plasma cell leukemia, an aggressive form of multiple myeloma cancer. Gray, 50, also worked on “The Tyra Banks Show.”
Basketball legend Bill Russell died July 31 at age 88. A graduate of Oakland’s McClymonds High School, Russell is considered one of the best players in NBA history and arguably the greatest winner in any sport. He attended the University of San Francisco, where the Dons won the NCAA championship in 1955 and 1956, including a string of 55 consecutive wins. He won a gold medal for the U.S. in basketball in the 1956 Olympics. Known for his teamwork, basketball IQ and revolutionary defense and rebounding, he played center for the Boston Celtics, leading them to 11 championships in his 13-year career. As a player-coach for the team, he also became the NBA’s first African American coach, including a stint with the Sacramento Kings in 1987-88. Off the court, Russell was greatly admired for his vocal and constant stance against racism, primarily in his playing city of Boston. For many, his stellar playing career could be topped only by his off-the-court support of social equality. The NBA Finals MVP award bears the Hall of Famer’s name and after his death, his jersey number No. 6 was retired league-wide, a first.
Former Black Panther Albert Woodfox, who survived decades of solitary confinement at Louisiana’s infamous Angola prison, died of COVID-19 on Aug. 4. Woodfox was one of three men accused of killing a White prison guard in 1972; the men became known as the Angola Three. He maintained his innocence and was released from prison in 2016. Woodfox visited Sacramento after his release and spoke on his experiences and his book, “Solitary,” which was nominated for both a Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award.
Doris Thompson, 92, died Aug. 5. Thompson served in the Women in the Air Force (WAF) for four years and was later employed at Travis Air Force Base and retired as a logistics manager at Mare Island Naval Shipyard. Thompson later worked as a teacher assistant herself to various community services in Vallejo. She was interred with full honors at Sacramento Valley National Cemetery in Dixon.
Actor Roger Earl Mosley, best known for portraying helicopter pilot Theodore “T.C.” Calvin in the 1980s television series “Magnum, P.I.” died Aug. 7. Mosley was 83.
Songwriter and producer Lamont Dozier, the middle name of the celebrated Motown Holland-Dozier-Holland team, died Aug. 8. The trio wrote and produced “You Can’t Hurry Love,” “Heat Wave” and dozens of other hits that helped make Motown an essential record company of the 1960s and beyond. He was 81.
Mike Hickmon, a beloved Little League coach in Lancaster, Texas, was killed Aug. 13 after a fight broke out at a youth football game. The opposing team’s coach, Yaqub Talib, has been charged with first-degree murder. Talib was a sports commentator and is the brother of former NFL cornerback Aqib Talib.
Marvin Webb, a Contra Costa College baseball coach who helped countless student athletes excel on and off the field, died Aug. 20 at age 70. Before working at the Richmond community college, Webb played with the Los Angeles Dodgers’ triple-A team and the Oakland A’s. Webb also was a minister.
Ava Muhammad, the national spokesperson for Nation of Islam leader Minister Louis Farrakhan, died Aug. 26. Muhammad, 71, was a lawyer and in 1998 became the first woman to lead a mosque and region within the Nation.
Hula Mae McClendon, the mother of KDEE radio personality Thaxter Arterberry, died Sept. 4 at age 90.
Broadcast news icon Bernard Shaw died Sept. 7. The former CNN news anchor was 82. Shaw, a Chicago native, was inducted into the Broadcasting and Cable Hall of Fame in 1999 and presented the Chuck Stone Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Association of Black Journalists in 2007.
Comic, writer, producer and Nickelodeon showrunner David A. Arnold died Sept. 7. Arnold, 54, was working on the show “That Girl Lay Lay” and earned fans with several Netflix comedy specials.
Valencia Prime, a Philadelphia drag queen, died Sept. 12 in the middle of a performance. Prime, 25, described herself as a “plus-size dancing diva.”
Rapper PnBRock was shot dead Sept. 12 at a Los Angeles eatery, the victim of an apparent robbery attempt. A social media post may have informed his assailant of his whereabouts. The rapper, born Rakim Hasheem Allen, was 30.
Jazz great Ramsey Lewis died Sept. 12 in his native Chicago. Lewis, 87, was a critically acclaimed pianist, composer, and radio personality who recorded more than 80 albums and earned five gold records and three Grammy Awards.
R&B singer Jesse Powell died of a heart attack Sept. 13, a day after his 51st birthday. Powell had hits with such songs as, “You,” “All I Need” and “By The Way.”
Joyce Chiles, the pioneering Mississippi prosecutor who helped reignite the investigation into the 1955 lynching of Emmet Till, died Sept. 22. Chiles was 67.
Vallejo gospel artist Eugene Dwayne Cole passed away Sept. 23. Cole recorded albums such as “He Will Work It Out” and “Jesus Is the Balm” as Eugene Cole and Persuaded.
Music legend Pharoah Sanders died Sept. 24 in Los Angeles. The famed saxophonist helped John Coltrane explore and expand the jazz genre. Sanders was 81.
Rapper Coolio died Sept. 28 in Los Angeles. Coolio, 59, was best known for such songs as “Gangsta’s Paradise” and “Fantastic Voyage” and his outlandish braided hairstyle.
Veteran film and TV actor Austin Stoker, who appeared in “Battle for the Planet of the Apes” and “Sheba, Baby,” died Oct. 7. Stoker was 92.
Willie Spence, a popular contestant and runner-up on season 19 of the singing competition “American Idol” died Oct. 12 after a car accident in Tennessee. Before appearing on the show in 2021, Spence, 23, earned fans with a viral video of his rendition of Rihanna’s hit song, “Diamonds.”
“Come Into My Life” singer Joyce Sims died Oct. 15 in Los Angeles. Sims was 63.
Daniel Smith, one of the last children of enslaved Blacks in America, died Oct. 19 in Washington. Smith, 90, was born when his father, who was enslaved during the Civil War, was 70. He was a civil rights activist who marched in Washington and Selma. At the time of his passing he was set to publish his memoir, “Son of a Slave: A Black Man’s Journey in White America.”
Josephine Melville, a Black British actress who appeared in soap opera “EastEnders” and “Prime Suspect 2” died backstage Oct. 20 after performing in the play “Nine Night.” Melville was 61.
Twenty-year-old Princeton University student Misrach Ewunetie was found dead near a campus tennis court on Oct. 20 after being missing for a week. Ewunetie, 20, a native of Ohio and of Ethiopian descent, was a junior with a full-ride scholarship. Her death was officially ruled a suicide this week, but her family and others had called for an independent investigation and autopsy.
Alfred Ayodele Myah, 24, was fatally shot Oct. 21 in the parking lot of Grant Union High School during a football game against Elk Grove’s Monterey Trail High School. A 15-year-old suspect was arrested in the case earlier this month.
Zuri Craig, a 2015 finalist on “America’s Got Talent,” died Oct. 21. The 44-year-old singer also collaborated with Tyler Perry, appearing in such films as “Madea’s Big Happy Family,” “Madea Gets a Job” and “A Madea Christmas.”
Former Penn State linebacker Bani Gbadyu died Oct. 22 after a brief battle with pancreatic cancer. The Liberia native was 34.
Rev. Dr. Calvin Butts, who pastored Harlem’s famed Abyssinian Baptist Church for decades, died Oct. 28. Rev. Butts, 73, was a champion for social and racial justice and Black participation in politics.
D.H. Peligro, a longtime drummer for the band Dead Kennedys, died Oct. 28 in Los Angeles Oct. 28, he was 63.
Shanquella Brenada Robinson, a North Carolina hairstylist, entrepreneur and social media personality, was killed Oct. 29 while on vacation in Los Cabos, Mexico. Robinson’s death sparked online outrage and demands for answers. Her travel mates are persons of interest in her death.
“Can’t Fake the Feeling” singer Geraldine Hunt died Oct. 29. She was 77.
Jordan Marshall, 28, Kandace Florence, 28, and Courtez Hall, 33, were found dead Oct. 30 inside a Mexico City Airbnb. Authorities say the friends died of carbon monoxide poisoning that resulted from an improperly installed water heater. They were in Mexico celebrating Dia de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead.
Takeoff, a member of rap trio Migos, was fatally shot Nov. 1 outside of a Houston bowling alley. Takeoff, whose real name was Kirsnick Khari Ball, performed with the platinum-selling group that included his uncle Quavo and cousin Offset, who were known for such songs as “Bad and Boujee” and “MotorSport.” Police say the 28-year-old recording artist was an innocent bystander who was shot in the head and torso when someone in a crowd of people opened fire following a dice game.
Tyrone Downie, a Jamaican-born keyboard player who added to the sound of Bob Marley and the Wailers, died on Nov. 5. Downie was 66.
Isaac Carter Jr., the first Black police officer in Dallas, North Carolina, died Nov. 8 at age 86.
University of Virginia football players Devin Chandler, Lavel Davis and D’Sean Perry were shot dead Nov. 13 aboard a charter bus returning from a school field trip. The alleged killer is a fellow Black student.
Roslyn Singleton, whose husband, Ray, appeared on “America’s Got Talent” in 2021, died of brain cancer Nov. 15. The couple chronicled her courageous battle with the illness on social media. The couple also appeared on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” after a video of him serenading her before a surgery went viral.
Florida-based recording artist and TikTok personality B. Smyth died Nov. 17 following a battle with pulmonary fibrosis. He was 30.
Raymond Green Vance was one of five people killed Nov. 20 when a gunman opened fire in a gay nightclub in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Vance, 23, identified as an ally to the LGBTQ community and was at the club with his girlfriend dancing and having a good time. He is described as a “gentle giant.”
Cecilia Marshall, the Filipino widow of the first Black U.S. Supreme Court justice, Thurgood Marshall, died Nov. 22 in Falls Church, Virginia. She was 94.
Former Sacramento resident Deidra Thorpe-Jones, 61, passed away Nov. 20 after a courageous battle with Leukemia. Thorpe-Jones was a trailblazer in information technology sales, including an award-winning 10-plus-year run with Microsoft and Amazon Web Services.
Joyce Bryant, a 1940s and 1950s cabaret performer and activist, died Nov. 20. The Oakland native broke barriers at a time when Black performers faced racism and violence in segregated clubs nationwide. She was 75.
A Walmart manager in Chesapeake, Virginia, walked into a breakroom Nov. 22 and killed employees Lorenzo Gamble, Tyneka Johnson and Brian Pendleton, who were Black. The gunman also killed Randy Belvins, Kellie Pyle and 16-year-old Fernando Chavez-Barron before killing himself.
Iconic actress-singer Irene Cara died Nov. 25 at her Florida home. Cara, 63, starred in the original classic films “Sparkle” and “Fame.” She also won an Oscar for singing the theme song for the equally popular movie “Flashdance.”
Musician, composer and producer Don Newkirk died Nov. 25. Newkirk, 56, collaborated with hip-hop groups such as De La Soul and 3rd Bass.
Brooklyn hip-hop manager Jonathan “Hovain” Hylton died Nov. 25. Hylton, 56, worked with such artists as Cam’Ron, Jim Jones, Styles P, Lloyd Banks and T Pain.
Gloria P. Ransom, the wife of local Superior Court Judge Gary E. Ransom passed away Nov. 27 in Carmichael, four days after her 79th birthday. Ransom was an entrepreneur and served on a number of boards, including that of UC Davis Medical Center and the Sacramento chapter of the Links Inc.
Talaia Newman, a young Sacramento woman, died Nov. 28 of an accidental fentanyl overdose. Newman, 20, had been on life support for a week. Her family wants to find who sold her the drugs and help bring awareness, and an end, to the fentanyl epidemic.
Actor Clarence Gilyard Jr. died Nov. 28 in Las Vegas. Gilyard’s credits include roles in the TV shows “Matlock” and “Walker, Texas Ranger” and movies such as “Top Gun” and “Die Hard.” He recently taught stage and screen acting at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
Yakira Chambers, a story editor for the CBS drama series “NCIS: Hawaii” died Nov. 30, after collapsing outside a mall in Newport Beach. As an actress, Chambers, 42, appeared in Issa Rae’s award-winning HBO comedy-drama “Insecure” and the 2020 film “John Henry.”
Local educator and youth mentor Azikiwe C. Ayo died Dec. 1. Ayo, 75, was a special education teacher, literacy advocate and a champion for applying Afro-centered academic principles for the benefit of his students and the wider community.
Charismatic 4-year-old Kaari Thompson was shot and killed Dec. 1 at a grocery store in the Lincoln-Lemington-Belmar neighborhood of Pittsburgh. Thompson’s mother Temani Lewis, 21, also was shot and succumbed to her wounds five days after her daughter’s passing.
Flynn Brown, a 22-year-old student athlete at Jackson State University, was found dead Dec. 2 inside an SUV parked on campus. A 20-year-old fellow student has been arrested as a suspect in Brown’s shooting death.
Janis Hunter Gaye, the second wife of the iconic Motown singer Marvin Gaye, died Dec. 3 at her home in Rhode Island. Hunter Gaye, 66, sang background vocals on Gaye’s song “Got to Give It Up” and inspired other music he recorded.
A Louisville, Kentucky, mother, Mary Njoki Muchemi Stanton, 49, and her daughters Andrianna, 17, and Brianna, 11, died Dec. 3 in a suspected murder-suicide. Gary Stanton, 60, is believed to have shot his family before turning the gun on himself.
Edna Peete, the mother of former NFL player Rodney Peete, died Dec. 6. She appeared briefly on the family’s Hallmark reality series, “For Peete’s Sake.”
Ronnie Turner, the son of music icons Ike and Tina Turner, died of complications from colon cancer Dec. 8 in Los Angeles. He was 62.
Three Southern University students – Brody Moore, 19, Tyran Williams, 19, and Dylan Young, 21 – were killed Dec. 7 in a car crash. The three young men, members of the school’s Human Jukebox marching band, were traveling from the Louisiana campus home to Texas for the Christmas break.
NBA Hall of Famer Paul Silas passed away Dec. 10. Silas, 79, played on championship teams with the Boston Celtics and the Seattle Supersonics. His storied career included coaching stints with the New Jersey Nets, Charlotte Hornets and Cleveland Cavaliers.
Longtime Sacramento arts educator Isac “Ike” Paggett passed away Dec. 10 in his Atlanta home. Paggett was a preeminent musician who for many years served as a band director and led the arts department at Sacramento High School.
Hip-hop dancer and choreographer Stephen “tWitch” Boss was found dead Dec. 13 in a Los Angeles hotel room, having apparently shot himself. The charismatic Boss danced his way into the spotlight on the TV competition show “So You Think You Can Dance” and went on to act as a DJ on a popular talk show hosted by Ellen DeGeneres.
Local man Sherrano Stingley, 48, died Dec. 16 after an altercation with Sacramento County sheriff’s deputies left him comatose. The Dec. 6 incident, recorded on bodycams, is furthering a call from local and national activists for law enforcement to rethink its responses during calls that may involve mental health crises.
Christopher Williams, a 62-year-old North Philadelphia man who got out of prison less than two years after being wrongly convicted and spending 25 years behind bars, was shot in the head and killed during a funeral procession on Dec. 17.
Sonya Eddy, who played nurse Epiphany Johnson on the long-running soap opera “General Hospital,” died Dec. 19. Johnson was 55.
Pittsburgh Steelers legend Franco Harris, 72, died Dec. 20, just days before he was to have his number, 32, retired by the organization. The honor, bestowed upon only two other Steelers, was to take place as the team celebrated the 50th anniversary of the “Immaculate Reception” play that Harris was a part of, which helped propel the team to its first Super Bowl in 1972.
Thom Bell, the Grammy-winning producer, writer and arranger who helped perfect the “Sound of Philadelphia” of the 1970s, passed away Dec. 22. He was 79. Bell was the visionary behind such hits as the Spinners’ “I’ll Be Around” and the Stylistics’ “Betcha by Golly, Wow.”
Retired South Los Angeles pastor Trina Newman-Townsend was killed by a hit-and-run driver after delivering gifts to an area shelter on Dec. 24. Family members say Newman-Townsend, 62, was a community activist and foster parent to 10 children.
Tizita “Destiny” Abdrazach, 22, died a hero on Dec. 25, saving five members of her fiance’s family after an artificial Christmas tree caught fire inside their North Highlands home. Abdrazach, who is of Ethiopian descent, is described as being compassionate and possessing a “beautiful soul.”
Joseph Mersa Marley, a grandson of late reggae legend Bob Marley was found dead in a vehicle in Florida on Dec. 27. Marley, 31, is the son of Stephan Marley and was an artist in his own right who performed under the name Jo Mersa. He may have had a fatal asthma attack.
Brazilian soccer legend Pele died on Dec. 29 at the age of 82. Born Edson Arantes do Nascimento, Pele rose from poverty to become one of the most popular, and highest paid, athletes of the 20th century. He won three World Cups with the Brazilian team and also served tirelessly as a global sports and goodwill ambassador, who often spoke out against racism in soccer.