Notable Black Celebrities Who Died From AIDS

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    From left to right: Fela Kuti, Alvin Ailey and Arthur Ashe. (Photo Credit: AP)

    HIV/AIDS is no respecter of race, class or celebrity status.

    People of African descent know this better than anyone. Black people worldwide are disproportionately affected by the disease when compared to other races. To date, more than 230,000 African Americans have died from AIDS and, in 2010, 1.2 million people in Africa died from disease.

    Some of those deaths included some high-profile Black celebrities. As the world comes together for World AIDS Day, NewsOne will commemorate some notable Black celebrities who have died from AIDS.

    1) Alvin Ailey

    One of America’s greatest dance choreographers, Ailey is credited with popularizing modern dance and increasing African-American participation in modern dance concerts. He received Kennedy Center Honors in 1988.

    He died a year later.

    [Source: Biography]

    2) Willi Smith

    A fashion designer known for his “Williwear” clothing line, Smith was one of the industry’s first African-American stars. He pioneered funky “street couture” fashions and had earned international status at a very young age.

    Smith’s clothing could be found in department stores around the world, especially in France and England. His line pulled in more than $25 million in 1986. Smith was 39-years-old at the time of his death.

    [Source: The Los Angeles Times]

    3)Fela Kuti

    A pioneer of Afrobeat, Fela was an international superstar whose politically-conscience music drew the world’s attention to the lingering strains of European colonialism while making millions of people dance at the same time.

    His songs were quite long, lasting up to nine minutes on average; his longest ones went up to 25 minutes or longer. Though his appetite for women may have under-minded his greatness (he married 27 of his dancers). Fela died in 1997 at the age of 58.

    [Source: New York Times, The Guardian and Wikipedia]

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    4) Eric Wright (Eazy-E)

    Eazy-E, along with Dr. Dre and Ice Cube, formed NWA (Ni**as With Attitudes) and quickly became the greatest great rap act out of the West Coast. Dubbed the “Godfather of Gangsta Rap,” Eazy-E drew from his gang-banging and drug-dealing past to produce best-selling hits such as “Eazy-Duz-It,” and “We Want Eazy.”

    Though fame may have gotten the best of him. In a 1995 statement where he announced that he was dying from AIDS, Eazy-Z said, “Before Tomika (his wife at the time) I had other women. I have seven children by six different mothers. Maybe success was too good to me.”

    He died soon after making the announcement.

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