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Friday, December 31, 2010

The year that was: 2010, vol. 2

To the essence
End-of-year “in memoriam” segments always draw fresh sighs and headshakes of disbelief. There exists a sense of grief anew, for the individual and for the impact on our greater society, the talent depletion that marks such transitions. In a look back, here’s a sample of giants that joined the ancestors in 2010, in alphabetical order:


Became America’s mom as the spunky senior looked with wonderment and spoke with pride that her boy “Joey” was taking the stage with the 44th president of the United States as his No. 2, affirming her investment and intuition that the one-time stutterer she knew was destined for great things.
Juan Mari Bras
A key figure in the Puerto Rican independence movement and self-proclaimed diplomat for the cause that wrote extensively, organized and brought a people’s concerns about colonial tactics on the island to the United Nations as well as renounced his U.S. citizenship in favor of a Puerto Rican one.
Richard Holbrooke
Known as much for his swagger as for his considerable skills, he served as ambassador to presidents and negotiator of conflicts spanning from Vietnam to Bosnia to Afghanistan.
Phyllis Kaniss
An early witness to the increasing convergence of media domination and local elections and the consequences of a shrinking political news hole in favor of spin-flavored ads, shared her insights with accessibility with her U. Penn students and media consumers with equal aplomb through well-crafted, thoroughly researched books on a subject that lies at the heart of our democracy.
Imari Obadele (Richard Bullock Henry)
The one-time FBI target turned college professor shifted tactics from calls for black separatism to help found the National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America (NCOBRA), endeavoring for decades to bring the issue to the national fore.
Michael O’Pake
The longest serving state legislator in Pennsylvania worked his way up from the projects of Reading and never lost touch with those humble roots or the desire to serve the mass of constituents in Berks County, even amid population shifts, economic decline and minority status in his chamber.
When the Rev. Jesse Jackson Jr. stirred political pots and launched his bid for the presidency in 1984, he had the political insight and analysis of this noted strategist and educator by his side, and scholars at Howard University and the University of Maryland, journalists and politicos-to-be were guided by that wisdom in ensuing years.
Trailblazing activist, lawyer and politician that made people believe in hope and change decades before a man named Obama as the first credible African-American candidate for mayor in Philadelphia and proponent for independent Democrats that galvanized citizens of all ages, genders, ethnicities and sexual orientation. Modeled what “power to the people” could mean, for a city and a nation.

Music and culture
The endearing story of the black man who served as the butler in the White House for eight presidents arose during the inauguration of one he would not have the pleasure to serve, the first African-American occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, and subtly showcased the dignity and pride that 2008 brought into fruition for generations.
Gary Coleman
The child star whose body never caught up to his age lived a troubled life in the post “Diff’rent Strokes” years, but forever remained an endearing figure with his chubby cheeks and memories of the catchline, “What you talkin’ about, Willis?”
The undisputed dean of the American marching band, he revolutionized the concept of having college musicians troop around in standard formation and infused power and pageantry to the game with show-stopping dance routines and impeccable and relevant music that kept crowds dancing in the stands, be they U.S. presidents, Super Bowl fans, or Parisians across the Atlantic. His Florida A&M Marching 100 remains oft-imitated, and still, never duplicated.
Al Goodman
Some voices meld like the angels, others stir a warmth in the soul, and Ray, Goodman, and Brown provided the perfect blend for R&B fans and lovers everywhere, especially any woman who knew she was a “Special Lady.”
The “Lady and Her Music” was a force of entertainment for nearly a century, a product of the old school – dynamic activist, dancer, pinup girl, actress, singer and all around star, whether she was protesting for civil rights, dancing in the Cotton Club, starring in Cabin in the Sky or as Glinda the Good Witch in The Wiz, flirting with “60 Minutes” correspondent Ed Bradley or dominating Broadway.
Marvin Isley
The bassist behind the funk that was both the Isley Brothers and Isley, Jasper, Isley and the author of “Fight the Power.”
Hank Jones
The storied jazz master took piano keys to heights unheralded and put a distinctive downbeat on the art form, leaving a template for only the most daring to follow.
As a musician, singer, actress, she exuded torch singer looks but coupled that with immense talent that withstood abusive relationships and elusive commercial success and crafted an undeniably lush body of work that celebrated jazz, women and perseverance.
The petite “Ivory Queen of Soul” took the world of R&B by storm in 1979 and never released its fans from her maelstrom, a soaring catalogue of songs and riffs rife that ranged from aching hearts to a spirit of survival that highlighted her vocal gifts and musicianship, touching generations.
A jazz saxophonist and flutist that melded reeds into eternal music and remade a song into the standard now known as “Moody's Mood for Love," so sophisticated that it inspired both lyrics and re-recordings from artists as diverse as Van Morrison to George Benson to Dana Owens aka Queen Latifah.
Trudy Pitts
Half of the Philly favorite Trudy Pitts and Mr. C team that played halls throughout the city and jazz houses around the country, her skills on the organ and piano rivaled her vocal stylings among fans.
Erudite musician, educator, broadcaster and unofficial jazz ambassador, he introduced untold people to players and stories that otherwise may have fallen into the cracks of history and elevated jazz to a national conversation.
Jefferson Thomas
As America stood at its crossroads for educational integration, he was among the Little Rock Nine that braved ugly crowds and pure hatred in their efforts to secure a basic education in the 1960s, and tapped into a resilience that awed adults twice their age and a bravery that inspired scores more here and abroad.

Business and media

Frank Baldino Jr.
Before most people understood the promise of biotechnology, the accomplished scientist founded a fledgling company from within a Philadelphia scientific business park, putting Cephalon on the path of destiny and a stock market gem, helping to propel Pennsylvania’s status as one of the leading biotech centers in the United States.
Stephen J. Cannell
No child growing up in America between the ‘70s and ‘80s was beyond his reach, with creations like the Rockford Files, The Greatest American Hero, The A-Team and 21 Jumpstreet as part of the portfolio for the prolific writer, both for TV and vacation-friendly fiction.
Phil Jasner
“Sportswriter” fails to capture the essence of his work, which chronicled a culture and a people of Philadelphia and its storied basketball highs, lows and overall obsession with the game, players, coaches and fans that make this city one of the best to love/hate from the stands for decades as part of the Philadelphia Daily News reporting team.
Eunice Walker Johnson
More than just the wife of a powerful and ambitious businessman that recast the image of African Americans for a nation, she made her own inroads along the same path by showcasing the beauty and worth found in African-American women, well before the cry that “Black is beautiful.”
Small only in physical stature, the decorated journalist with the resounding and commanding voice led news reports in print and on radio and television for more than 50 years and paved a road to success for those who dared to seek truth.
J.D. Salinger
While more than a reclusive one-hit wonder, his seminal work, The Catcher in the Rye, remains required reading for students, many of whom recognizing bits of themselves in the rumored autobiographical protagonist Holden Caulfield.
Author and activist, intellectual and historian, he reshaped how Americans looked at themselves and their country with treatises such as A People’s History of the United States, The Politics of History, Terrorism and War and nearly a dozen others.

1 comment:

  1. They will be sorely missed. We appreciate the fact that you helped remind us of the people that have made such an impact on our lives without asking for anything but respect in return. Thanks for doing that for us.