When news broke that Chadwick Boseman passed away from colon cancer, it didn’t seem real. It had to be a hoax. Sadly, it was not.
How could someone so vibrant be taken so soon? I mean, 43 years? That’s not enough.
Shortly after his death, Boseman’s family announced that he had previously been diagnosed with Stage III colon cancer. The reveal was shocking. Rather than publicize his diagnosis, Boseman waged a private battle on his own terms. All the while, he continued to work, engage and inspire.
A graduate of Howard University, Boseman’s affiliation with the historically black college was an immense source of pride and indicative of his reverence for the Black experience.
As an artist, Boseman cemented his legacy. In a five-year span, he portrayed three of the most iconic African Americans of the 20th century in Jackie Robinson, James Brown and Thurgood Marshall. However, it is his depiction of T’Challa in the Marvel film “Black Panther” that defines him.
In a genre typified by caucasian actors, Boseman led a predominantly African American cast on screen. To be clear, “Black Panther” was not just a movie. It was a cultural phenomenon. The fictitious kingdom of Wakanda captured the public’s imagination and created a new world of possibilities. The phrase “Wakanda Forever” became a metaphor for communal solidarity, expressed by a cross-armed salute.
But for all the film’s merit, it was Boseman’s persona that elevated the picture. His portrayal of the powerful, yet compassionate protagonist brought a new dimension to the superhero mold. Boseman’s nuanced performance delivered strength, wisdom and empathy to a role often maligned by two dimensional characters. More importantly, it was believable. Everything about Chadwick Boseman being a hero seemed believable.
A statement issued by former President Barack Obama spoke directly to Boseman’s innate heroism.
“Chadwick came to the White House to work with kids,” tweeted Mr. Obama. “You could tell right away that he was blessed. To be young, gifted, and Black; to use that power to give them heroes to look up to; to do it all while in pain — what a use of his years.”
What a use indeed.