In October, I’ve set out tombstones to honor the great men and women who passed every year (since 2004); the revolutionaries, the trailbreakers, those luminaries who changed the world. From lists of thousands, I choose a few exemplary souls. Courage, selflessness, fighting for freedom, equality and justice are qualities I admire. Emiliano Zapata gets a tombstone every year.
List of the Dead 2022
Nichols was an actor and activist. She is best known for her groundbreaking role as Lieutenant Uhura in the original Star Trek. Nichols spent her later years as a NASA recruiter, with a focus on bringing more people of color into science.
Poitier was an actor, director, and activist. A few of his most famous films are; Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?, To Sir, With Love, Raisin in the Sun and Lilies of the Field (Best Actor Oscar). He was the first African American to win the Oscar for Best Actor (1964). He was awarded the Presidential medal of honor in 2009 for his work as a trailblazer and activist.
As the son of Japanese immigrants, his whole family was interned during WWII. As an adult, Mineta was the Mayor of San José, California. He was the first Asian American presidential cabinet member
(grounded all planes on 9/11 as head of Department of Transportation)
Albright and her family were Jewish refugees from Nazi Czechoslovakia. She was US Ambassador to the UN. In her prominent roles, she fought to eliminate nuclear weapons. Albright was the first female US Secretary of State.
Olivia Newton John
Newton John was a singer and actor. Her incredible soprano shone in films like “Grease” and “Xanadu”. She was a personal favorite of mine growing up. My sister, our neighbor and I went to our local cinema to see Grease in 1979 and liked it so much we watched it twice in a row.
Mangeshkar was called the Bollywood Nightingale. Her outstanding career lasted for 60 years. In that time she performed in 2,000 movie soundtracks. In her decades of recording she sang 25,000 songs in 20 Indian languages. Mangeshkar may be the most recorded artist in history. She was awarded the prestigious Padma Vibhushan prize in 1999.
Artis Leon Ivey Jr. was a rapper. Coolio was a joke nickname. His friends would call him Coolio Iglesias (comparing him to Julio Iglesias). Coolio recorded music from 1991 to 2019. He recorded songs for several movies. “Gangsta’s Paradise” was one of his most famous. It sampled from Stevie Wonder’s Pastime Paradise. His “Gangsta’s Paradise” was the theme song for the movie “Dangerous Minds.”
Rosario Ibarra de Piedra
(1927 – 2022)
Ibarra de Piedra was a Mexican human rights activist. In 1975, her son Jesús disappeared. He was one of many missing. She founded the Comité Eureka to find the disappeared and was its president. Ibarra de Piedra was the first Mexican female presidential candidate in 1982. Due to her human rights work, she was a contender for the Nobel Peace Prize for several years.
Bhamjee was a South African anti-apartheid activist. He was born in South Africa, but because of his protests against apartheid he had to move to Wales in the 1980s for his own safety. Bhamjee continued his protests in exile from Wales.
Carlos Garduño Núñez
Garduño Nuñez was a decorated Mexican WWII Pilot. In 1945, he was Colonel of the Air Force 201 Squadron
that helped liberate the Philippines. Garduño Nuñez was the last living member of the squadron.
Emiliano Zapata Salazar
Zapata was a Mexican Revolutionary. His rallying cry was “Tierra y Libertad” (Land and Liberty). He fought in the Mexican Revolution for agrarian land reform. The modern guerillas called the Zapatistas follow in his footsteps.
Please share one the names of one or two passings that affected you deeply this year.