The night of August 28th, 2020, when news broke out that actor Chadwick Boseman passed away from colon cancer. I was in the middle of procrastinating on doing homework when I scrolled down my Instagram feed and was exposed to the shocking news. Like any other, I was in disbelief. He was so young and talented, with so many people looking up to him. How could this have happened so suddenly? Refresh after refresh, more and more people posted photos and videos of him, sharing with the world how much he meant to them. The world was and still is grief-stricken by this loss.
While the news is saddening for many, it’s important to look back on all he did while he was here. From his notable role as King T’Challa (also known as the Black Panther) in the Marvel Cinematic Universe to portraying pivotal figures in Black History such as Jackie Robinson and Thurgood Marshall, he was indeed a man who defined doing a job and doing it well. Not once, though, did the world recognize what he was really going through. The evidence was more physical than anything as he was visibly losing weight due to his cancer diagnosis, but otherwise, no one would have guessed the severity of his health.
It would be remiss to state that the passing of Chadwick Boseman is especially a heavy blow to the Black community. We all saw so much of ourselves in the characters he portrayed and interacted with. We dressed up and showed out at Black Panther screenings during the box office weekend. Little black children would shout “Wakanda Forever!” as if it was a new form of greeting someone. Black girls would say hello to a new Disney princess (by technicality, but still counts) found in Boseman’s co-star, Letitia Wright, as Princess Shuri. The representation in media that Boseman carried was immense, and one that lasted him a lifetime.
Not only was Boseman a talented actor, but a man who spoke with power and confidence. As a commencement speaker during the 2018 graduation class for his Alma mater, Howard University, Boseman said, “Many of you will leave Howard and enter systems and institutions that have a history of discrimination and marginalization. The fact that you have struggled with this university that you love is a sign that you can use your education to improve the world that you are entering.” This message is not only applicable to graduating seniors or Howard University students but one that is needed right now for students across the nation as we all are capable of doing great things when we finish these four years (or however long it takes) while pushing against the barriers and negative forces that try to set us back.
We could all take a page from Mr. Boseman’s book and do what we can while we’re here in this life. While it is recognized repeatedly that life is short, this is a hugely impactful situation that cements the notion once again. Chadwick Boseman was more than the roles he played in movies. He was a man of class and eloquence, on and off the red carpet. Now and forever, he will be remembered as a great hero and an even greater human.