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Farewell Bill Nunn, aka Radio Raheem

I was very saddened to learn that the actor Bill Nunn has died. Spike Lee announced the news on his Instagram account:

“officialspikelee My Dear Friend, My Dear Morehouse Brother- Da Great Actor Bill Nunn As Most Of You Know Him As Radio Raheem Passed Away This Morning In His Hometown Of Pittsburgh. Long Live Bill NUNN. RADIO RAHEEM Is Now RESTING IN POWER. RADIO RAHEEM WILL ALWAYS BE FIGHTING DA POWERS DAT BE. MAY GOD WATCH OVER BILL NUNN.”

Radio Raheem

Radio Raheem, played by Bill Nunn, greeting Spike Lee in “Do the Right Thing” (1989).

Nunn is best known and remembered for his powerful role as Radio Raheem in Lee’s great movie “Do the Right Thing” (1989). The film focuses on racial tensions and gentrification in a Brooklyn neighborhood. Raheem functions as a king of itinerant boombox carrier, a Buddha figure wandering about town with his music, exchanging greetings with locals, and ultimately perishing at the hands of police during a riot outside a pizza parlor.

I regard “Do the Right Thing” as easily one of the best radio themed movies ever made. Two decades after the release of the film, Nunn’s personification of Raheem remained so iconic that Lee revised it for a video protesting the police murder of Eric Garner, a Staten Island man who died in a police choke hold in 2014.

According to The New York Times, Nunn died of cancer. He was 63. YouTube has many fond remembrances of him. Here is just one:

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