On August 28, 2020, the world mourned the loss of our beloved Chadwick Boseman – an American actor born and raised in South Carolina, known largely for his role as T’Challa, or, the Black Panther – superhero of Wakanda – in the 2018 film “Black Panther.”
Who could have seen this tragic passing? Boseman never spoke of his battle with colon cancer publicly – an illness he was diagnosed with four years ago. Unaware of Boseman’s fight with colon cancer, many commented on his dramatic weight loss revealed in a video that he posted on Instagram. While some were genuinely concerned about his overall health, a few internet trolls used futile humor to make fun of Boseman’s new appearance, some even accusing him of being on drugs. Although his battle with colon cancer was unknown to the public, a lesson we can all take from this situation is to withhold judgment about others – you never know what someone is going through and even if you think you do, you most likely don’t know the full story.
Boseman may be gone physically, but the impact that he has left behind remains. He gained international fame after his role in “Black Panther”. It’s no surprise that Boseman’s role as the Black Panther was so groundbreaking. He served as a representation for young Black children across the world – a superhero they could finally identify with.
While fighting his own private battle, Boseman visited children fighting cancer at the St. Jude campus. Following the news of his passing, St. Jude’s Research Hospital paid tribute to Boseman with a social media post that stated “Two years ago, Chadwick visited the St. Jude campus and brought with him not only toys for our patients but also joy, courage, and inspiration.” Members from the St. Jude campus recall Boseman staying until he had the chance to meet every single patient – recalling that this visit from a celebrity felt different, and that’s because it was different. This was an emotional visit for Boseman, he knew exactly what these children were going through – he was battling the same thing simultaneously. Boseman may have played a superhero on screen, but he was a real-life superhero – especially to these children.
Boseman embodied the role of Jackie Robinson in 42: The True Story of an American Legend. After the release of this 2013 film, Boseman received much praise for his portrayal of Jackie Robinson. Robinson’s daughter, Sharon Robinson, even recommends this biographical movie over “The Jackie Robinson Story” even though her father played himself in the film. Sharon stated “It was so important to Chad that he get all aspects of this story correct: the strength of my father’s character, how difficult it was to suppress your voice – especially someone who was so outspoken; and that you’re doing it for the larger good; and the anger you feel, and yet you can’t express that anger on the field when you’re being attacked and you have to find ways to release it and still hold up your pride. Chad understood all of that.”
His most recent role as Stormin Norman in Spike Lee’s 2020 film “Da 5 Bloods” is a relatively small role in regards to screen time, however, Boseman plays a prominent role and his presence is always felt because it is so powerful. Besides this being one of his most recent roles, Boseman will be featured in an upcoming drama film titled “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” based on the play (titled the same) by August Wilson.
If you watch the films and shows that feature Boseman, you’ll notice a certain pattern about the roles he plays. Boseman constantly takes on roles of strong and powerful characters. He was once offered a role in a slavery film but turned it down. Why? He didn’t care for playing any roles that exemplified the outdated stereotypes of Black people. Boseman went out of his way to choose roles that portrayed Black people in an empowering way – choosing roles of strength, power, and character. Think of “Black Panther”. “Black Panther” was a cultural milestone. This movie depicted Black people and culture in a new light. “Black Panther” illustrated us in a powerful way, showing Wakanda as a technologically advanced country with characters that were intelligent, powerful, independent, and strong (physically and mentally) – not your average depiction of Black people, especially in the media.
A statement made by Boseman’s family on his social media after his passing revealed that he had been fighting stage III colon cancer, soon progressing to stage IV. He stayed strong and battled his illness privately as he continued to film several movies in between countless surgeries and chemotherapy. Boseman passed away beside his wife and family in his home.
Even in his last moments, Boseman was thinking of others. Nate Moore, an executive producer of Black Panther, shares Boseman’s heartfelt final text; “It broke me, man, but we need to do that for them. People deserve abundant life, special moments. They’ve been through hell battling disease. If we were able to ease their suffering and bring joy for a moment, and hopefully moments as he goes through the bags, then we made a difference in his life.” This final text was in reference to Boseman and Moore’s efforts to help cancer patients through the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
I just want to remind you that it is okay to mourn the loss of someone you have never met – someone you have never known personally. Let us take this time to celebrate the life of Chadwick Boseman and all he has accomplished. All of the hearts he has touched, and everyone he has inspired – from children to adults. Chadwick may be gone, but his legacy and the lives he has changed will live on forever.