Chadwick Boseman and the Year of Black Death

On August 28, 2020, the world lost an inspiring and tenacious figure. The family of Chadwick Boseman confirmed that he lost his secret fight to stage III colon cancer. Boseman was diagnosed in 2016 at the age of 39. 

 

Boseman was, specifically for Black youths, a role model. His most iconic role of Black Panther in 2018 was a turning point for diversity on the silver screen. Black kids everywhere were finally given the chance to see someone who looked like them fighting crime in a superhero role. 

 

The cultural reset of Black Panther alone is enough to call Boseman a legend. ‘Wakanda forever’ became more than just a movie quote. It manifested into a mantra, reminding the Black community to be unapologetically Black AF no matter the situation. 

Netflix screen Photo by Thibault Penin on Unsplash

For black people, the film felt like a win during a time when punches were thrown at us left, right, and center. Our men and women were being murdered by the very people meant to protect and serve us, our children were being discriminated against just because they had more melanin than their counterparts, and the presidency in and of itself was an attack on our literal lives. However, when the film released, black people everywhere came together to be their true authentic selves. 

 

We were showing up to movie theaters in dashikis, eating fried chicken with our fists raised to symbolize Black Power. Although it seemed corny to some at the time (myself included), looking back now, I can only help but to notice the impact that Boseman truly had. When Black Panther was released, it felt good to be Black. 

 

Black Panther wasn’t Boseman’s only noteworthy role. He also played Thurgood Marshall in ‘Marshall,’ Jackie Robinson in ‘42,’ as well as the legendary James Brown in ‘Get on Up.’ Boseman played four groundbreaking Black figures, so his death quite frankly felt personal.

  Sad heartbreak robot burak kostak on Pexels

When I learned of Boseman’s passing I was in shock. “This can’t be real,” I said to myself. I cried scrolling through Twitter, reading the thousands of tribute posts made out to him. 

 

I will put this as bluntly as possible: being Black in 2020 has been exhausting. Every day we’re reminded that the color of our skin is a literal target used for target practice. Many of our role models have left us and moved on to another realm. We, unfortunately, can’t escape this trauma because it follows us everywhere we go. On social media, without warning, we can scroll past a video of one of our own being gunned down or learning of yet another death of an important figure. We see it on the news with politicians passing laws that negatively affected us. Within our own homes, we're reminded when we look in a mirror and stare into our own eyes.

 

2020 has been a rough year for everyone, but for some reason, it’s turned into the year of Black Death. From Kobe and Pop Smoke’s untimely deaths, the tragic losses of Naya Rivera and John Witherspoon, to the multiple Black lives taken away at the hands of police officers, it felt like every time I turned around there was someone new to grieve over.  

Fan's mourn Kobe Bryant's death at a vigil at Staples Center on January 26th, 2020 Photo by Fred Kearney from Unsplash

Boseman's passing is undoubtedly sad. However, I ask you to join me in remembering the positives of his life's journey. Remember his infectious laugh, his ability to move people with his acting, and the impact he has had on Black children around the world. Boseman was a legend in his whole light, and I find comfort knowing he left those earth doing what he loved: performing for the world to see.