This morning the world woke up to the tragic news that a hero had departed our mortal plane, Chadwick Boseman has passed away at the age of 43. Rest in Prayers, Power and Peace.
Where to start? In all honesty I would prefer not to. Not to write. Not to feel. Not to accept this as a reality, Not Chadwick. To not be overcome with insurmountable grief is to not have known Chadwick Boseman, and those that are able to occupy that space at this current moment are the envy of us all, because you are able to go back and experience him for the first time.
When the news broke that Chadwick had succumbed to a four year battle with colon Cancer, the feeling was akin to a trap door being triggered… the ground beneath me didn’t exist anymore, I was in free fall, but with nothing to grab onto and no solid ground to stand on, it dawned on me that this man achieved all of THIS whilst going through all of THAT. Such was the discreet nature of Chadwick, that outside of those closest to him, the first time that the rest of the world found out that he had been battling Cancer was today. It was during this four year stretch that Chadwick took on the role that defined a generation, becoming King T’Challa, The Black Panther.
The notion that being great and Black is “oxymoronic” is false, to be black and great are synonymous, but the former has been perpetuated and crystallised in America since the days of the cotton plantations. To only acknowledge this notion as false would be to dismiss the very real impact that it has had on the Black community. The limitations placed on what it meant to be great and Black dictated the heights that we were able to attain; “you can be everything but the President or a Superhero”. This century has seen these glass ceilings unapologetically smashed to smithereens, when Barack Obama became the President of the United States in 2008 and when Chadwick Boseman became Black Panther in 2016’s “Captain America: Civil War” – both names are forever etched into the history books and neither look out of place next to one another.
The release of Black Panther and the energy it evoked was visceral, it signalled a collective unlearning of negative African stereotypes and an awakening of pride amongst a people who had been told from inception that they had nothing to prideful about, Chadwick (and an immensely talented supporting cast) did that. We all felt the frequency change when that film came out, Africa through the Western lens was no longer a land of “wild, untamed savages”, to be African was to be intelligent, powerful and cool (really, really cool). If my words aren’t enough to go on, just ask any one of the millions of children around the world who went to see that film, they’ll probably tell you that I’ve undersold his greatness.
The air of mysticism stretches far beyond his role as T’Challa. His portrayal of James Brown, Jackie Robinson and Thurgood Marshall were the introductions to the Black icons of yesteryear for a new generation and were as educational as they were awe-inspiring. Whilst his name belongs in the pantheon of greatness along with the legends he portrayed so vehemently, he never pitted himself against them, but saw himself as a continuation of their legacy. This was never more apparent than when his friend, mentor and acting great, Denzel Washington was honoured with an AFI Lifetime Achievement Award in 2019 and he spoke on the impact that Denzel had on his career through his work and a divine moment of intervention when he funded a young Chadwick Boseman’s acting course in London.
“An offering from a sage and a king is more than silver and gold, it is a seed of hope, a bud of faith, there is no Black Panther without Denzel Washington”
They say to “never meet your heroes because they’re sure to disappoint you”, this quote holds no weight when referring to Chadwick Boseman. Through the silver screen we all met our hero at different stages in his and our lives, and none of us were ever disappointed.
The man who played legends, became a legend and planted the seeds of inspiration for legends to come. From Anderson, South Carolina to the hearts of millions across the world, Chadwick Boseman didn’t lose his battle with cancer, he won his journey with life…
A mission completed. Long Live The King.