Chadwick Aaron Boseman—real-life hero, activist, and inspiration to all—unfortunately, passed away on Aug. 28, after fighting a difficult battle with colon cancer. Despite being diagnosed with this illness in 2016, he continued to pursue roles that pushed his body to the limit. It’s only been a few weeks since the passing of the late actor, but the black community is still processing his absence. I, myself, am still struggling to come to terms with a death so unexpected because I never thought a person that I developed such a deep connection with would be gone so soon. I knew the same frustration I experienced was being felt throughout the community when I found myself going through posts after posts of people’s initial reactions to this tragedy. That’s when I knew how impactful this man’s presence was in our world.
The black community, including myself, were sick of seeing the same slave narrative be one of the norms for our representation in Hollywood. We were proud to see people who looked like us grace the screens of movie theaters, but we still wanted change. Chadwick later became our change. He first came to the Hollywood scene as a recurring character in the soap opera, All My Children, and later proceeded to snag multiple roles as black notable figures in history: Jackie Robinson in 42, James Brown in the Get on Up, Thurgood Marshall in Marshall and many more. The one role that stood out the most and made him a worldwide sensation was, indeed, Black Panther. Chadwick became the first black actor to headline a film from the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
I can’t recall the last time I’ve seen my fellow black and brown peers so ecstatic over a movie. It was aweing to see people show up to theaters with Afrocentric outfits and elaborate costumes, and I’m thankful that we went so hard for this film. There was something so grandeur about watching black men and women reigning power over a rich and advanced country that they claimed for themselves. It was a dream to see the people of Wakanda be unapologetically black and proud, without any outside forces intervening. Black culture was being celebrated like never before. This is why Black Panther meant so much to us and its legacy will continue to reach others for generations.
On top of being in leading roles in films, Chadwick made sure to remind others to break through barriers. Throughout his career, he consistently showed his appreciation for his alma mater, Howard University, on numerous occasions. The latest being his attendance as the guest of honor at the university’s 2018 commencement – where he delivered a powerful speech that is still being talked about to this day. Chadwick proclaimed that “if you are willing to take the harder way, the more complicated one, the one with more failures at first than successes, the one that has ultimately proven to have more meaning, more victory, more glory then you will not regret it.” When I watched this speech, I felt as though I was in the audience at that moment, soaking up those words of encouragement. Since this speech was given two years following his diagnosis, it now holds new weight to finding your purpose and holding on to your pride.
Chadwick was a beacon of light who shined with his affectionate laugh and positive attitude. He was a strong man who didn’t let the complications of his illness deter him from his aspirations, proving that he was, in fact, a superhero.
Rest in Power, our forever king.