Muhammad Ali (Jan. 17, 1942 – June 3, 2016)
Champion boxer Muhammad Ali, known as “The Greatest of All Time,” died at age 74 of respiratory complications. Ali achieved success as a heavyweight fighter and Olympic gold medalist, but he continues to be a role model for athletes who protest against Black oppression. The activist boxer refused to fight in the Vietnam War on religious grounds but also declared the Viet Cong were not the true enemies of Black people.
Monte Irvin (Feb. 25, 1919 – Jan. 11, 2016)
Known as one of the Negro League’s best players, New York Giants outfielder Monte Irvin, who was on tap to integrate Major League Baseball in the 1940s, died of natural causes at age 96.
Prince (June 7, 1958 – April 21, 2016)
A singer with a decades-long, boundary-defying career, Prince died at 57 of a drug overdose at his Paisley Park estate in Minnesota. Known as “The Purple One,” the singer earned massive success churning out hits like “Purple Rain,” “Kiss,” and “1999,” but Prince also was an activist. He believed Black lives matter and frequently spoke about Egyptian philosophy and historian Dr. John Henrik Clarke. Prince also supported self-determination.
Billy Paul (Dec. 1, 1934 – April 24, 2016)
Best known for the single “Me and Mrs. Jones,” Billy Paul was 80 years old when he died and had been hospitalized following a recent pancreatic cancer diagnosis.
Kimbo Slice (Feb. 8, 1974 – June 6, 2016)
Iconic street and mixed martial arts fighter Kimbo Slice — born Kevin Ferguson — died at 42 of congestive heart failure. Slice, who competed on “The Ultimate Fighter” in 2012, launched his professional career after finding success with viral street fighting videos. He signed to UFC and held a 1-1 record before leaving the company to pursue wrestling. In MMA, the fighter had a 5-2 record with four TKOs.
Tray Walker (Aug. 5, 1992 – March 18, 2016)
Baltimore Ravens cornerback Tray Walker was just 23 years old when he died in a motorbike accident after colliding with an SUV.
Maurice White (Dec. 19, 1941 – Feb. 3, 2016)
Maurice White, the founder of Earth, Wind and Fire, died in his sleep at age 74 after suffering from Parkinson’s disease. During his tenure with the funk-soul band, they sold over a 100 million records and churned out hits like “Reasons,” “September” and “Shining Star.” Aside from his work with the band, White carved out an impressive music career behind the scenes, co-producing and co-writing the hit, “Best of My Love” by The Emotions, a group he discovered.
Kashif Saleem (Dec. 26, 1959 – Sept. 25, 2016)
Singer-songwriter and producer Kashif Saleem, known for his work with the likes of Whitney Houston and George Benson, reportedly died of natural causes at 56 years old.
Afeni Shakur (January 10, 1947 – May 2, 2016)
Afeni Shakur, activist and mother of rapper Tupac Shakur, passed away at 69 of a heart attack. The former Black Panther — who was arrested and charged with conspiracy to bomb New York City landmarks with other members before her charges were dropped in 1971 — continued to serve the Black community even after her time with the Panther Party ended. Shakur worked as a paralegal to save families from eviction. Until her death, Shakur managed her son’s estate after his 1996 murder, giving much of the funds to charity.
Sean Rooks (Sept. 9, 1969 – June 7, 2016)
Former NBA center and Philadelphia 76ers assistant coach Sean Rooks died at 46 of a heart attack after suffering from cardiovascular disease.