It’s hard to remember things that have always been there, hard to form a tangible idea of how they’ve shaped you. If you were alive and black anytime between 1970 and 1993, that’s likely how you feel about Don Cornelius. In those years, this remarkable man took to the airwaves every Saturday morning and created blackness. He stood up before the world—just two years after King’s assassination, five years after the Moynihan Report detailed supposed black depravity—and he unapologetically celebrated the joy, creativity and love of black culture. He financed the show himself. He insisted on employing black artists both on and off camera. And he built one of the most iconic brands in American history in the process.
Today, the Los Angeles County Coroner confirmed that Cornelius died from a self-inflicted gun shot to the head. He was 75. I’ve no notion of the torment that led him to the awful moment in which he died. But I have every idea of the joy and happiness and pride he facilitated weekly in black homes over 23 years. That’s Cornelius’s legacy—love, of self and others. We thank him. And in his truly immortal words, we wish his spirit love, peace and soul.
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