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On August 28, 2020, Chadwick Boseman was announced dead from Colon cancer. He was known for his incredible acting in films like 21 Bridges, 42, Da Five Bloods, a number of Avengers movies, and Black Panther.

His death was announced to the world through his Twitter account from his loved ones detailing how Chadwick had been battling colon cancer since 2016 and died in his home beside his family.

When news of Chadwick’s death was shared with the public, it almost felt like we had lost a brother or a close friend. For many people, this year has been filled with an immeasurable amount of loss. The Black community was one of the racial groups that were hit hardest by COVID, resulting in more Black people dying from COVID at “a much higher rate than our population share.” Our community has had to deal with our own family members, friends, and neighbors dying from COVID, as well as the fact that many of us have lost our jobs or are unable to pay rent. Not to mention the ongoing Black Lives Matter movement.

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And yet, 2020 has brought some good for the Black community. The Black Lives Matter movement has led to conversations about the value of human life. I’ve personally seen so many people come to finally understand the message behind BLM and work to end police violence and many other racial issues. Despite this, the loss of Chadwick Boseman has helped cement 2020 as a year that marks the loss of hope for the Black community.

Black Panther is so culturally important, not only because it showcased Black culture in a new light and was so well-received by the public, but for the first time it really felt like Black people could be viewed as something positive in the media. In media studies, people often talk about how Black characters and Black films make violence, poverty, police brutality, death, racism and depression the only aspects of the Black experience. For the youth especially, it was amazing to be able to see someone who looked like them be the good guy. The one who saves the day. The guy who isn’t just a citizen, but the king.

Representation in the media is so vital and so important for the development of self-worth. Do you have any idea how damaging it is to see popular works often depict people who look like you as poor, uneducated, gang affiliated, etc.? For the first time for many people in my age group and younger, we could be kings and queens, rulers of an enriched land. Despite Black Panther showcasing Black people in a different light then usual, it still touched upon important characteristics of the Black experience. It discussed inequalities within the Black community, the importance of preserving culture, the loss of history that came with white colonization, and the lack of solutions created or presented to help end the many issues that face the Black community. 

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Black Panther could have easily been centered around just being a hero and saving the day, but the intersection of Black struggle with the experience made it more accessible to everyone. It’s what pushed “Black Panther” the hero into being an extension of us and what we hope to be one day.

 

Image Credit: Her Campus Media Library

Shermarie Hyppolite

U Mass Amherst '23

Shermarie is currently a senior at UMASS Amherst double majoring in Communication and Journalism with a concentration in PR and is a part of the Commonwealth Honors College. When she is not writing pieces or doing homework, she is listening to k-pop music, reading, ranting about Beyoncé, and scrolling through Tumblr and Twitter.
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