10:11 pm, August 28th 2020.
Posts began to appear on Chadwick Boseman’s social accounts announcing his departure after battling colon cancer for the better part of four years in secret.
At 10:12 pm, the entire world began to mourn.
Very few individuals have left such an impact on the world in such little time as Chadwick Aaron Boseman did. Before 2016, few households knew his name even though he received critical acclaim for his work in the films 42, the biopic on baseball trailblazer Jackie Robinson and Get On Up, where he portrayed the legendary James Brown. However, when he graced the screen in the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Captain America: Civil War as Prince T’Challa, he had arrived.
While he played a pivotal part in that film, the world awaited for his true coronation, the film that shook the industry and shattered as many stereotypes as it did records. We are, of course, talking about Black Panther. In a film that broke the mold of the Hollywood myths and stigma in Black cinema, Black Panther became the highest grossing solo superhero film and, more importantly, the highest grossing film by a Black director. Helmed by the talented Ryan Coogler (Fruitvale Station, Creed), the film was composed of a cast almost entirely of Black actors, set operators, designers and consultants, all representing the Black community.
The film brought important discussions within the community to the big screen and it became the first superhero film to be nominated for ‘Best Picture’ at the 91st Academy Awards. In total, Black Panther was nominated for seven coveted golden statues and it ended the night with three wins, one of which was given to Ruth E. Carter for ‘Best Costume Design,’ the first African American in the history of the Oscars to win in this category.
I’m absolutely devastated. This is beyond heartbreaking.
Chadwick was special. A true original. He was a deeply committed and constantly curious artist. He had so much amazing work still left to create. I’m endlessly grateful for our friendship. Rest in power, King???? pic.twitter.com/oBERXlw66Z
— Chris Evans (@ChrisEvans) August 29, 2020
The achievements of that film are great indeed, but they pale in comparison to how Chadwick Boseman brought the King T’Challa to the cinemascape. He took the mantle of the King of Wakanda, the fictional country in Africa known for its wealth and scientific advancement, and his performance was not only an outstanding portrayal of the superhero Black Panther, but he moved many with how he brought this beloved, and for many unseen, character to life. His demeanor, charm, and his grace on the screen truly felt like he came from a royal bloodline, raised to carry himself with dignity wherever he appeared, and that is why we mourn.
Boseman is celebrated by his peers for being a man of principle and dignity. Every room he graced, he did so with poise and respect. Every interaction with a fan or a colleague was with a warm heart and a welcome embrace. He was a man who chose his words carefully because he understood how powerful they were and he lived his life with the intention to inspire purpose. He also chose his roles wisely because he knew how important it was to bring life to those who paved the way for the Howard University Alum to portray Jackie Robinson and James Brown.
He likely knew there was a chance he may leave this world when he played Thurgood Marshall and most recently Norman Earl Holloway in Spike Lee’s Da 5 Bloods. Attempting to fill those shoes is a monumental ask in itself. Yet, he did so while going through multiple surgeries and chemotherapy without a hint to the outside world. He continued to live his life with purpose until the end, while shouldering his suffering in silence to bring about performances that would leave a lasting impact and encourage others to inspire and give hope for generations to come. To show young Black men and boys that they too can have a hero that looks like them, that came where they came from, and has experienced what they’ve experienced.
At age 43, Chadwick Boseman left such a mark in a career that only spanned roughly a decade that it is hard to believe that he is gone. It seems as if there are so many more stories to tell, worlds to visit and examples of dignity, class and purpose that only he could give us. It is difficult to imagine another like Chadwick in our lifetime, however, he has left an exemplary body of work to gather inspiration from. It is important to note that the shock felt around the world when the news broke serves to remind us that life is ever so fragile and we should all look to lead a life that he so delicately illustrated for us; a life of purpose. As we say goodbye to Chadwick, there are so many ways one can describe how amazing his light was and how far it reached and yet there seems to be few that do him justice. Except maybe one.
Thank you for inspiring so much with just your presence.