In Memoriam: Remembering the Entertainers, Activists, Business Leaders We’ve Lost In 2017

shocking celebrity deaths
(Bobby Bank/WireImage/Getty Images) 
Charlie Murphy

The older brother of comic Eddie Murphy, Charlie Murphy was an accomplished comic in his own right. While he is perhaps best known for his stint on “Chappelle’s Show,” he had been on The Comedy Get Down tour at the time of his death from leukemia at age 57.

celebrity deaths
(Paras Griffin/Getty Images)
Amanda Davis

A veteran Atlanta news anchor, Amanda Davis had a decades-long, award-winning career but was troubled by alcoholism. She opened up about her battle during her stint on CBS46, where she resurrected her career on her terms. After suffering a massive stroke, she died 24 hours later at 62.

celebrity deaths
(Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images for Spotify)
Reggie ‘Combat Jack’ Ossé

A successful hip hop lawyer turned podcasting pioneer, Reggie ‘Combat Jack’ Ossé revolutionized the hip hop podcast space. Sitting down for hours with the likes of Chuck D and Ice-T, “The Combat Jack Show” had also launched an investigative series a la “60 Minutes.” Ossé was in his early 50s when he died of colon cancer.

Erica Garner dead
(Andrew Burton/Getty Images)
Erica Garner

Following the death of her father Eric Garner, whose choking death at the hands of a New York police officer led to public outcry, Erica Garner became an activist to end police brutality. After suffering a massive heart attack, which led her to be placed in a medically induced coma, the mother of two died at 27.

shocking celebrity deaths
(Scott Keeler /Tampa Bay Times via AP)
Dick Gregory

Comedian and activist Dick Gregory was a force in the 1960s as he used humor to make racial commentary during the decade. His career included TV appearances and books like “Murder in Memphis.” Gregory died at age 84 following a hospitalization for a severe bacterial infection.

shocking celebrity deaths
(Dave Kotinsky/Getty Images)

Albert Johnson, better known as Prodigy, was one-half of rap duo Mobb Deep. He and fellow member Havoc released such singles as “Shook Ones” and “Quiet Storm” in the 1990s. Prodigy had been hospitalized for complications related to sickle cell anemia and reportedly died at age 42 after accidentally choking on eggs.

shocking celebrity deaths
Lowell Hawthorne

The president and CEO of Golden Krust Caribbean Bakery & Grill, Lowell Hawthorne launched a franchise that had 120 stores and products available in 20,000 grocery stores nationwide. Jamaica-born Hawthorne made a splash appearing on the CBS series, “Undercover Boss” but over a year later, he died of suicide inside his Bronx, N.Y. warehouse.

shocking celebrity deaths
(Paul Archuleta/FilmMagic)
Big Black

Known for his role on the MTV reality show “Rob & Big,” Christopher “Big Black” Boykin appeared as skateboarder Rob Dyrdek’s bodyguard on the series. A heart attack claimed his life at age 45.

shocking celebrity deaths
Melissa Bell

Melissa Bell rose to fame as the lead vocalist on the 1990s Brtish group Soul II Soul’s hit single “Wish.” She later left the band, which is known for the song, “Back to Life, Back to Reality,” and struggled with severe kidney failure for years stemming from diabetes. Bell’s daughter confirmed the 53-year-old’s death on Twitter.

shocking celebrity deaths
(Ann Johansson/Corbis via Getty Images)
Robert Guillaume

Robert Guillaume was best known for his role at Benson in “Soap” and the character’s self-titled spin-off. He was also known for his work on “The Lion King” as Rafiki. On stage, his most notable act came from playing the title role in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Phantom of the Opera.” Guillaume died of complications from prostate cancer at 89.

shocking celebrity deaths
(Maury Phillips/WireImage)
Della Reese

A legendary gospel singer, Della Reese was best known for her work on the 1990s series, “Touched By An Angel.” She retired from acting in 2014 following a lengthy career and died at 86 after battling a host of health issues, including diabetes.

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(Prince Williams/FilmMagic)
Mychael Knight 

A fan favorite on “Project Runway,” Mychael Knight didn’t win the competition but went on to launch his own self-titled fashion company. Upon his death at age 39, no cause was issued. However, Knight had been open about his battle with irritable bowel syndrome and extreme weight loss, the latter of which was evident in recent photos.

shocking celebrity deaths
Fats Domino 

New Orleans native Fats Domino, the Godfather of Rock ‘n’ Roll, had a career that spanned several decades. His albums sold 110 million copies and included hit songs like “Blueberry Hill” and ”Shake, Rattle and Roll.” He inspired many musicians after him, including Little Richard, and earned honors like National Medal for the Arts before dying of natural causes at 89.

shocking celebrity deaths
(Photo by Adger Cowans/Getty Images)
Bernie Casey

Bernie Casey made a successful jump from athlete to movie star. After playing as a wide receiver for the San Francisco 49ers and Los Angeles Rams, he transitioned to a career on the big screen. Casey appeared in films including ”Brian’s Song,” “I’m Gonna Git You Sucka” and “Never Say Never Again” along with TV shows like “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” and ”Murder She Wrote.” He died at 78 after a short illness.

shocking celebrity deaths
(Travis Long/The News & Observer via AP)
Chuck Davis

Known as a master choreographer, Chuck Davis was a teacher of traditional styles of African dance. He founded several dance companies in North Carolina and New York and had traveled to the motherland to study dance styles. His cause of death was not known but the 80-year-old was diagnosed and treated for cancer two years prior.

shocking celebrity deaths
(20th Century Fox)
Novella Nelson

Broadway star novella Nelson, best known for her role in the film “Antoine Fisher,” died at age 77. The cause of death was not known initially but her daughter confirmed Nelson had died of cancer. Before then, Nelson had a lengthy stage career, appearing in “Purlie” and “Hello Dolly!” She also appeared on TV shows including “Law & Order: SVU” and “Damages.”

shocking celebrity deaths
(Michael Buckner/Getty Images)
Nelsan Ellis

A Julliard-trained actor, Nelsan Ellis was best known for his portrayal of Lafayette Reynolds in “True Blood,” and more recently appeared on the series, “Elementary.” Ellis had a movie career, too, with roles in “The Butler,” “The Help” and the James Brown biopic, “Get On Up.” He also was a playwright and stage director and died at age 39 of heart failure due to alcohol withdrawal.

Source: Black info

Racism In Egypt: Black Women Share Their Appalling Experiences

racism in Egypt
Sudanese-born model Fatima Ali

29-year-old Fatima Ali is bravely calling out the rampant racism in Egypt and the Arab world against darker-skinned Africans. The former Miss Sudan beauty queen turned author is planning to share her experience in her book titled, “Diary of a Black Girl”. She recounts the numerous amount of times she’s been harassed, discriminated against, and unfairly treated by both men and women in Cairo.

Ali has lived in Egypt for the majority of her life, moving to the country at nine months old. She tells Al-Monitor about the daily provocations she endured, “At some point in my life in Egypt, I grew fed up with the daily negative comments that I hear from people on the streets about my color.” In response to the treatment, Ali decided to launch a website, Black in Egypt, to detail her experiences. “That is why I decided to set up a site where I can vent my anger on prejudice and discrimination against black people in the country,” she added. The new book will be a collection of her experiences detailed on the site.

One of her posts describes being compared to “the night”. “It is as if those with black color have been destined to be ugly, and I broke the rule,” she wrote.

Ali’s story has encouraged others to come forward and share their encounters too. “The book has been a plan of mine, and I hope it gets out and impacts more people,” she explains.

According to Al Monitor, Ali’s story is one of many for darker-skinned Africans. A young call center worker, Dina Ahmed, told the publication that she’d been called derogatory names like “samara” which is akin to “blackie” in Arabic. She added, “I believe that the Egyptian media has played a major role in fostering the culture of discrimination against black people in Egypt. In movies, usually the doorkeeper or the housemaid or the driver working for a rich family is black or from Nubian origins. So people started to look down on them.”

Black American women who’ve lived in Egypt share similar horror stories too. A teacher who works at an international school in Cairo told Cairo Scene, “There’s nothing like walking down the street and being called a nigger by someone living here. Being a black woman, you will experience some of the most ignorant, racist comments you will ever hear. I would never recommend coming to Egypt to any black person. What an irony.”

Another experience left the teacher scarred after visiting a popular salon, “I could hear the cleaning lady laughing and saying racist things while looking at me with disgust. Being Black here can be a nightmare.”

As for Ali, she’s moved to Dahab, a small town south of Cairo where she says the level of harassment is significantly less. She’s enjoying the serenity and safe settings of the town.

Source: Black info

Liberia President-elect to Foreign Investors: ‘We’re Open for Business’

Liberia president
Supporters of former soccer player George Weah, presidential candidate for the Coalition for Democratic Change, celebrate, in Monrovia, Liberia, Friday Dec. 29, 2017. The National Election Commission has declared George Weah president-elect and Jewel Howard-Taylor vice president-elect following the Dec. 26 runoff poll. (AP Photo/Abbas Dulleh)

MONROVIA, Liberia (AP) — George Weah gave his first public address as Liberia’s president-elect Saturday, telling potential investors that the nation is “open and ready for business” and calling on Liberians who live abroad to come home.

The former international soccer star spoke at Coalition for Democratic Change party headquarters, where he vowed to tackle corruption and asked members of his party to applaud the Liberians who elected him.

Weah won Tuesday’s runoff with 61.5 percent of the vote over Vice President Joseph Boakai, who got 38.5 percent, according to final results.

Liberia, a nation founded by freed American slaves, is seeing its first democratic transfer of power in more than 70 years as Nobel Peace Prize winner Ellen Johnson Sirleaf steps aside. Sirleaf, Africa’s first female president, led the country’s recovery after back-to-back civil wars and saw it through a deadly Ebola outbreak.

“Two days ago the world saw me cry, not because I won, but for the lives of partisans who lost their lives in the struggle for change,” Weah said after being introduced by his running mate, vice-president-elect Jewel Howard-Taylor.

Weah honored Sirleaf, calling her “the Iron Lady of Africa,” and promising to “build upon the institutional gains” her administration has made.

Weah also paid tribute to Boakai, calling him “a statesman and neighbor.”

He called on Liberians living abroad to “come home; this is a new dispensation.” He also called for foreign investments as the flow of aid to Liberia is in decline.

“To investors, we say Liberia is open and ready for business,” he said.

He vowed to fight the types of scandals that have plagued the West African nation, saying “Those looking to cheat the Liberian people through corruption will have no place.”

Benyan Kota, who listened to Weah’s speech on the radio, said he appreciated the statements about tackling corruption and about inclusion.

“Whenever the word inclusion is mentioned it brings to us the feeling that a government wants to bring about protection for the underprivileged and underdeveloped,” said Kota, president of the Christian Association of the Blind.

Voter turnout for the runoff was low, but Weah drew overwhelming support from the younger generation, which makes up a majority of Liberia’s population of 4.6 million. Weah’s rags-to-riches story has been an inspiration to many supporters who call him “King George.”

Though hundreds sang his praises and chanted his name at the end of his speech, Weah did not mention how he intends to tackle the country’s economic woes, nor did he announce a specific program to address unemployment.

Expectations will be high for Weah to lift the nation from poverty and create jobs.

In addition to corruption, Liberia faces problems with electricity and a health care system decimated by the Ebola outbreak. Weah’s critics have said his brief experience in politics will be a challenge for the nation.

Weah had run in the country’s last two elections, winning the first round of the 2005 vote that eventually went to Sirleaf. He ran as the vice presidential candidate with diplomat Winston Tubman in 2011; they boycotted the runoff that granted Sirleaf her second term.

As Liberia grappled with the Ebola outbreak in 2014, Weah was elected as a senator, defeating Sirleaf’s son Robert for the seat.

Weah is expected to take office in January.

Source: Black info

Three Deep Breaths for Erica Garner, A Fearless Fighter

Erica Garner dead
NEW YORK, NY – DECEMBER 11: Erica Garner, daughter of Eric Garner, leads a march of people protesting the Staten Island, New York grand jury’s decision not to indict a police officer involved in the chokehold death of Eric Garner in July, on December 11, 2014 in the Staten Island Neighborhood of New York City. Protests have continued throughout the country since the Grand Jury’s decision was announced last week. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)

The final breath came not long after hers, when we heard the news. We’d been holding it, for the better part of a week, hoping, despite what we’d been told, her status would improve, her breathing would get stronger, her large eyes would open.

They did not. And on Saturday morning, we collectively took a deep breath and closed our eyes as headlines told us that 27-year old Erica Garner, the daughter of late husband, father and NYPD-chokehold victim, Eric Garner, had succumbed to the damage caused by a major heart attack just before Christmas. It was her second such attack since giving birth to her son in August, a pregnancy stressing her already enlarged heart.

But we already knew much more than the doctors were telling us. Because even though most of us did not have the pleasure of knowing her personally, there are things we still knew. We knew that Erica had an extra-large heart, one that caused her to stand up, speak out and wage largely unwinnable wars for her family, and for us, her community.

We knew that the thorny and thankless path of leadership she had chosen — rather, the path that had chosen her — was brutal and unforgiving, and paved with stress.

And we knew her untimely passing, regardless of official cause, was a tragic echo of a state-sanctioned sin committed three-and-a-half years ago on a Staten Island street corner by those who see us as less than human, while acting less than human; by those who treat us like monsters, while becoming monsters.

Although declared a homicide by the coroner — and although the city settled with the family for $5.9 million to avoid a suit — no one has been charged in the senseless July 2014 death of her father after he was arrested by several police officers on suspicion of selling single cigarettes and put in a chokehold by officer Daniel Pantaleo. In December of that year, a grand jury declined to indict Pantaleo who remains on the NYPD payroll.

Still, incredibly, after that reprehensible decision, although we should have been there for her, Erica was there for us. She threw herself into the deep, hollowed-out void left by the judicial travesty and became our voice, our emotions, our outrage, our fire. Despite a system that had ripped her heart from her, damaging it irreparably in the process, Erica campaigned for justice as if it still existed for the rest of us, if not for her loved one, then for ours, all of ours, the ones still living, the ones yet to be born, yet to be slain.

Erica spent the last three years of her life rallying for an end to police brutality, bolstering the Movement for Black Lives, staging weekly “die-ins” on the sidewalk at the site where her father was killed, and setting up a foundation in his honor. In 2016, she endorsed Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders for president based on his vocal anti-brutality position, and she continued to demand increased transparency and accountability in policing at events, large and small, across the country.

And not long before she passed, Erica let us know that, whatever the cost, she was all in. “I’m not giving up, and this is the fight,” she told “Like it Or Not” in a final interview. “I’m in this fight forever.”

The second breath came at Christmas. Surely it was a mistake, and then it wasn’t. Not her, not after all she’s been through, all she’s overcome, all she’s been forced to shoulder. We gasped as the holiday headlines confirming that Erica was in a medically-induced coma, her brain deprived of oxygen from a heart attack, one triggered by an asthma attack and her inability to breathe.

Despite the paucity of details on her condition, we knew instinctively that a lack of breath had somehow contributed to her plight. After all, how could it not have, given her father’s viral execution, his breathtaking demise, his repetitious, now-iconic chant of “I can’t breathe” 11 times at the culpable hands of those who did everything in their power to ensure he could not.

The simple act of breathing, a biomechanical act most of us take for granted, was never simply a mechanical act for the Garner family. In a tragic foreshadowing, both father and daughter suffered from asthma, both regularly found it hard to breathe.

As her father’s primary legacy-bearer and namesake, Erica was forced to live his horrific death over and over again whether in her mind, in a courtroom, in a public forum, on social media, or in her ongoing quest for justice from a city that didn’t care, one less concerned with justice, law and order, than adjusting for the perceived loss of a racial order.

For activists like Erica, for those who assume the precarious mantle of community leadership, breathing doesn’t come easy. Between championing unheralded causes and waging battles on behalf of others, there is little room to breathe and less for self-care, for taking a break, especially when our needy world provides none. But if it were merely sport, rather than the unforgiving game of life, then there would be someone there, a trainer, a coach, to constantly remind us to take three deep breaths whenever we felt tired, stressed or overwhelmed, to re-energize us and get us back on track.

For Erica had warned us herself, several times, as recently as last month, that her chosen path — again, the path that had chosen her — was brutal and unrelenting. “I’m struggling right now from the stress of everything,” she said, “because the system, it beats you down.” She cited Venida Browder, the mother of Kalief Browder, a Bronx 22-year-old who, unable to readjust after years of wrongful incarceration as a teenager at New York’s infamous Riker’s Island, killed himself in 2015, saying Venida Browder died of a broken heart” because the late heart attack victim “kept on fighting for her son.”

So when the news of her own broken heart finally came, we looked back at the signs and recognized them for the first time, though they were there, hidden in plain sight all along. And after the scattered pieces came together, and it all sunk in, we took a deep breath and remembered who we are. We remembered the uniquely beautiful, extended and endangered family that we belong to. And we remembered that tragedy, for us, is ever a breath away.

The first breath was Erica’s. She took her first precious taste of air a mere 27 years ago in a New York hospital. She was the oldest of four children born to Eric and Esaw.

She was close to her father from the start. By all accounts, Erica was a “daddy’s girl” who helped out with her younger siblings given her mother’s work schedule and her father’s ongoing bouts with asthma.

Erica commonly heeded her father’s regular advice. “Everything that my dad told me, ‘You have to be a leader. You have to lead by example,’ now I understand why,” she said in a recent video.

She further honored her late father in August upon the birth of her son who she named “Eric.”

And it is this love for her father, for her children, for her loved ones, and for her community that her grieving family now wants everyone to remember most. A Saturday morning tweet from her official site read, “When you report this you remember she was human: mother, daughter, sister, aunt. Her heart was bigger than the world. It really really was. She cared when most people wouldn’t have. She was good. She only pursued right, no matter what. No one gave her justice.”

Perhaps now, after her final breath, she can hear us; perhaps, she always could, even in her wholly-compromised position, with damage to her oxygen-deprived brain, with tubes snaking about her motionless body. Maybe Erica could hear our every thought, our every prayer, our every meditation, our every wish, our every breath, directed at her, lifting her, letting her know, that even when it’s not, it’s okay.

Perhaps she knows we’re all here, gathered around her, all of us, the family’s all here, regardless of where we are, we are all here, surrounding her, holding hands, silently, breathing deep.

And as we take three deep breaths for Erica Garner, we do so not just for our beautiful fallen warrior, but for her two children, her late father, and for her family who has had their breath stolen from them two times too many.

We take three deep breaths for the activists among us, those who step up to bear the weight for us and our impossible struggle, and who too frequently forget to stop and breathe.

And we take three deep breaths for our own beloved community, one far too often forced to remember that tragedy, for us, is ever a breath away.

Source: Black info

Serena Loses In First Match After Giving Birth But Promises Return to Grand Slams Will Be to Compete for Championships

Serena Williams comeback
Serena Williams from the U.S. returns the ball to Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia during the final day of the Mubadala World Tennis Championship in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Saturday, Dec. 30, 2017. (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili)

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Serena Williams lost on her return to competitive tennis after giving birth, going down to French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko in an exhibition in the United Arab Emirates on Saturday.

“I don’t think I am going to rate my performance,” Williams said. “I have plenty of comebacks, from injuries, from surgeries, but I’ve never had a comeback after actually giving birth to a human being. So, in my eyes, I feel it was a wonderful, wonderful match for me.”

Williams struggled with her serve and Ostapenko won 6-2, 3-6 and then 10-5 in a super tiebreaker, but the American still impressed to take a set off the No. 7-ranked Ostapenko after nearly a year away from tennis.

Williams said after the 67-minute match at the Mubadala World Tennis Championship that she is still undecided on her title defense of the Australian Open, which starts Jan. 15, but delivered a warning to rivals.

“I don’t know if I am totally ready to come back on the tour yet. I know that when I come back I definitely want to be competing for championships,” Williams said. “I am definitely looking forward to getting back out there.

“I am taking it one day at a time. I am going to assess everything with my team before deciding.”

The 36-year-old Williams took time off after winning the Australian Open last January while pregnant. She gave birth to her first child, a girl named Alexis Olympia Ohanian Jr., on Sept. 1. She married Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian in November.

Williams has won 23 Grand Slam singles titles, a record for the professional era.

“Knowing that I have won 23 Grand Slam titles and several other titles, I don’t think I have anything more left to prove. But I am not done yet,” Williams said.

Despite winning her opening game when she broke Ostapenko, Williams was nowhere near her best in the first set, before fighting back and winning the second.

After the initial break, Ostapenko latched onto the weak serves of Williams, and several unforced errors helped, as she stormed back into the match to go 4-1 up with two breaks.

Williams struggled with her serve in the second set too, but went ahead 3-0 with a couple of early breaks as she started to hit more confident shots, including several crowd-pleasing double-handed passing shots. Another break in the ninth game delivered her first set of the comeback.

“In the beginning, it felt a little tough. But as the match moved on, I was less afraid. I knew I was not going to fall over and break,” said Williams.

“The more I played, the more confident I felt that I would be able to go for shots that I was afraid to go for in the first set.”

In the super tiebreaker, Ostapenko raced to an 8-2 lead before quelling a brief recovery by Williams.

Williams said she was delighted with the way she competed.

“For me, it is all about physical, how I am feeling physically … I am just proud being out here and playing in Abu Dhabi and to be able to just compete. I have had a tough few months and I am just excited to be able to play again.”

It was the first time a women’s match had been played in the traditionally men’s only exhibition event.

South Africa’s Kevin Anderson defeated Spain’s Roberto Bautista Agut 6-4, 7-6 (0) in the men’s final.

Source: Black info

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