Black People Mourn The Loss of Alex Trebek

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A shrine to the late “Jeopardy” quiz show host Alex Trebek is pictured near his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Monday, Nov. 9, 2020, in Los Angeles. Trebek died Sunday of pancreatic cancer at age 80. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello)

By Micha Green
AFRO D.C. Editor
mgreen@afro.com

When news broke that Jeopardy’s beloved host Alex Trebek died on Nov. 8, at the age after battling pancreatic cancer, celebrities and the average person alike, took to social media. Fans, friends and family used the platform to pay tribute to one of America’s all time favorite game show hosts. However, the outpouring from Black Twitter and people of color described Trebek as more than a favored host, but an ally to the Black community. 

“We send our love and prayers to Mr. Trebek’s family and friends. He was a strong supporter of #BlackLivesMatter who believed deeply in racial justice. He was one of the kindest souls,” Black Lives Matter Los Angeles tweeted.  “BLMLA feels blessed to have called him friend. May the good that he has done last forever.”

Trebek was also heavily involved wit the United Negro College Fund (UNCF) and back in 2018, Trebek got some flack from the Black community, when TMZ’s Harvey Levin asked him about his contributions to the organization and he self-described as a “brother.”

Trebek explained that in the 80s he had a big afro, mustache and dark tan. He said that when he was spotted at an event speaking to Black dancer and actor Gregory Hines, who died in 2003, someone thought that he was speaking to his brother.

“I’m out there in the Afro-American community as a brother,” Trebek explained to Levin, while lifting his fist in the “Black Power” motion.

Although people were upset by Trebek’s anecdote and self-description as a “brother” (and some by his usage of the sometimes considered archaic term, “Afro-American,” as opposed to “Black” or “African American”), since photos of his throwback look surfaced in early 2020, Black Twitter hailed the Jeopardy host’s vintage look and adopted him as a member of the African-American community.

“Alex Trebek was a Black man,” one Twitter user wrote.  “LOL at this Beautiful African-American man,” a Black woman tweeted.  And, in the history of the undefeated Black Twitter user, Curtis Taz Williams, wrote, “L’Alex Dontravius Trebek. Yeah. We used to call him peanut. Saw him drop 43 points against Dorsey High back in ‘73,” with a picture of an old Black man.

Jeopardy’s Alex Trebek died on Nov. 8 at the age of 80 from pancreatic cancer. He was beloved by the Black community and some even adopted him as a member. (Courtesy Photo)

Trebek’s welcome to the Black family cookout was a small outpouring of the many African Americans who considered the Canadian American an icon.  

I was obsessed with Jeopardy as a nerdy kid growing up in Ohio. I’ve loved and revered Alex Trebek since I can remember. What an iconic career. RIP Alex Trebek,” EGOT holder John Legend wrote on Twitter.

Fellow game-show host Steve Harvey also took to social media to remember Trebek.

“My heart is so sad over the passing of the classiest game show host of all time!!! His style was real to me …… condolences to his entire family and fans,” Harvey tweeted.

While many people may not have had the opportunity to say they experienced seeing the game-show host in action, Lorelle Anderson, assistant library director for Public Services at Florida A&M University (FAMU), reflected on his major contribution to her own life as a former Jeopardy contestant. 

“Like most of America, I am deeply saddened by the news that we have lost Alex Trebek,” Anderson wrote in a statement. “My experience being on Jeopardy– having him say my name!– was one of the highlights of my life. Through the show, he entertained and educated millions, of all ages, and brought us together over a shared love of knowledge. An American institution, he truly will be missed.”

Alex Trebek, host of “Jeopardy!” attends a ceremony honoring the show’s executive producer Harry Friedman with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in Los Angeles, in this Friday, Nov. 1, 2019, file photo. “Jeopardy!” host Alex Trebek died Sunday , Nov. 8, 2020, after battling pancreatic cancer for nearly two years. Trebek died at home with family and friends surrounding him, “Jeopardy!” studio Sony said in a statement. Trebek presided over the beloved quiz show for more than 30 years. (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP, File)

 

Even before his March 2019 pancreatic cancer announcement, some people were already prematurely missing Trebek, and wondered who would be equipped to take over for the legendary Jeopardy host, when his contract ended in 2020.  In 2018, Trebek told Levin in the TMZ interview that he recommended CNN legal analyst Laura Coates as his possible replacement. “She’s African-American and she appears on some of the cable news shows from time to time,” he said in 2018.

At the time, Coates was flattered by the suggestion. “Incredibly honored [and] humbled  [Jeopardy’s] Alex Trebek 1) knows who I am 2) thinks I’d be a great host of my fave game show ever that I grew up watching [with] my family [and] still watch [with] my own kids (who saw him say this [and] now think I’m a genius),” Coates tweeted in August 2018.

For now, Jeopardy has not announced Trebek’s replacement, but show fans will be able to enjoy more episodes featuring the legendary host when the final show he filmed airs Christmas Day.