The Words and Wisdom of Trailblazers Who Passed Away In 2017

By Sameer Rao Dec 31, 2017

Celebrate the legacies of these luminaries who passed away in 2017 through the uncompromising, wise and poignant things they said.

"I waited at the counter of a White restaurant for 11 years. When they finally integrated, they didn’t have what I wanted.”—comedian and activist Dick Gregory (October 12, 1932—August 19, 2017)


“We had reached a point in history where we could not tolerate the abuse any longer, where mothers could not tolerate the mistreatment that goes on on the reservations any longer.”—American Indian Movement co-founder and activist Dennis Banks (April 12, 1937—October 29, 2017)


"It is important for us to show the world we can stand together as one people. It’s even more important for our youth to see us standing together and fighting for what what is right. It shows them that they can push back against a corrupt system without being a so-called thug."—anti-racist activist Erica Garner (May 29, 1990—December 30, 2017)


"We stand by our Sanctuary City because we want everybody to feel safe and utilize the services they deserve, including education and health care. …It is my obligation to keep our city united, keep it strong."—first Asian-American mayor of San Francisco, Edwin "Ed" Lee (May 5, 1952—December 12, 2017)


"The peoples there—they seemed like they wasn’t concerned about what happened to me, and they didn’t try and do nothing about it. I can’t help but tell the truth of what they done to me.”—rape survivor and activist Recy Taylor (December 31, 1919—December 28, 2017)


"I want to represent for all the females. I want them all to know that. Don’t stop doing what you’re doing. Don’t let no one discourage you."—Bay Area DJ Pam "The Funkstress" Warren (November 17, 1966—December 22, 2017)


“Everybody started calling my music rock ‘n roll, but it wasn’t anything but the same rhythm and blues I’d been playing down in New Orleans.”—R&B music pioneer Antoine “Fats” Domino (February 26, 1928—October 24, 2017)


“Remember that my view, the only true view I can see with, is through the Black eyes that I have.”—rock n’ roll music pioneer Chuck Berry (October 18, 1926—March 18, 2017)


"I believe everyone has a gift, an ability. Something that you actually realize and start to hone. There are people who are acknowledged as the top electrician. The top dentist. The number-one brain surgeon. There are people who’ve become millionaires from plumbing."—comedian and actor Charlie Murphy (July 12, 1950—April 12, 2017)


“They don’t give a fuck about they own poor White trash/Just imagine how they feel about my Black ass/Fuck Christopher Columbus, the Indians was here first/And fuck the Vatican, the pyramids is older”—rapper and author Albert “Prodigy” Johnson (November 2, 1974—June 20, 2017)


“When White people play a character, people expect it to be a character. But Black people—we can’t just be character actors, we have to [really] be the things we’re hired for, which is what offends me.”—actor Nelsan Ellis (November 3, 1977—July 8, 2017)


“’Benson’ upgrades the image of the Black ordinary working man. He’s a character with wit and intelligence—no great ambition, no great philosophy. …We have not had an opportunity as actors to be ordinary.”—actor and "Benson" star Robert Guillaume (November 30, 1927—October 24, 2017)


"So whatever it is you want, need or desire or just like to have, you better try to get it now, ’cause this is the only time there is.”—gospel musician and actress Della Reese (July 6, 1931—November 19, 2017)


"Dream those dreams. …Life without dreams is black and white, and the universe flows in technicolor and surround sound."—Reggie "Combat Jack" Ossé (July 8, 1969 – December 20, 2017)