Here’s why Chadwick Boseman will always be our real life Black Panther
It’s a sign that Chadwick Boseman passed away on Jackie Robinson Day. The actor, though best known for his MCU role of Black Panther, became a breakout star after his iconic portrayal of Robinson in 42. But unknown to not only the general public, but most who knew him, Boseman had been fighting colon cancer since 2016.
Finally losing that battle on Friday, August 28th, Boseman passed away surrounded by his friends and family. As those who knew him mourn his passing, we’re here to recognize the heroic actions of Boseman. And we’re not talking about him filming eight movies while fighting cancer, as that’s heroic in his own right.
Since taking over the role of Black Panther, Chadwick Boseman became a symbol of hope and pride for the black community, inspiring young kids everywhere by giving them a superhero that looked like them. Not only that, but he continued to be a philanthropic force, helping with several cancer foundations as he dealt with his own battle with cancer.
I keep thinking about my 3-year-old in his Black Panther costume. How he wore it almost every day when he got it, refused to take it off. The way he walked around saying “I’m the Black Panther.” How happy it made him. What Chadwick gave us was immeasurable. What an enormous loss.
— Clint Smith (@ClintSmithIII) August 29, 2020
Giving black figures a voice
Jackie Robinson. Thurgood Marshall. James Brown. Thoth, Egyptian God of wisdom. And of course, T’Challa. Very few actors can say they played such a wide range of icons, yet in a seven year span, Chadwick Boseman did all of those. A Howard University grad, Boseman made it clear he was looking to give a voice to his race.
But Black Panther in particular was something special for not just Chadwick Boseman, but the black community as a whole. It rewrote the narrative of what people think about Africa. In an interview with Today around the time of Black Panther’s release, Boseman recognized the power the film had.
“If anybody believes that Africa didn’t have an empire, didn’t have architecture, didn’t have art, didn’t have science, you see it in this movie.” Black Panther was more than just a symbol of representation, but a symbol of hope for the black community. It was a film that showed black people for everything they are instead of casting them aside like some token project.
Heck, anyone who saw Avengers: Endgame opening night has stories about the crowd absolutely losing it when T’Challa walks out of the portal first. That is the power this character has. It brought a B-list superhero into A-list territory, giving black people the symbol they truly deserve.
This wasn’t the end of his work either. Literally just four days before his death, news broke that Boseman was teaming up with Seth McFarlane to produce a limited series about the Little Rock Nine. Based on the memoir by Little Rock Nine member Carlotta Walls LaNier, the series was going to point an honest look at the desegregation issues of the 60s.
Chadwick Boseman to Denzel Washington: “There is no Black Panther without Denzel Washington…let he who has watered be watered.”
Now that water is for YOU, Sir.
You will be sorely missed.#RIPChadBoseman pic.twitter.com/OCHlENo8qx
— BrooklynDad_Defiant! (@mmpadellan) August 29, 2020
Chadwick never forgot his roots
With such a high power career, it’s easy to let the fame get to you. But Chadwick Boseman stayed humble until the end. Shortly after his death, a clip from an AFI event started circulating where Boseman reflects on a favor Denzel Washington did back when he was still in college.
While Boseman was attending Howard University, his professor, The Cosby Show actress Phylicia Rashad, reached out to Washington to help raise funds to send her students to the British American Drama Academy for a summer program. He gladly obliged, and Boseman and his fellow classmates were able to spend the summer in England.
At the AFI event, Boseman recounts this story, and personally thanks Washington for his role in that, as that experience really helped Boseman get to where he was. It’s not every day you get to thank the person who changed your life.
He was a great inspiration to young kids an a great actor!
RIP Chadwick Boseman #ChadwickForever #ChadwickBoseman #RIPChadBoseman
— 𝚂𝚝𝚊𝚗 (@Stannie510) August 29, 2020
Helping others who were fighting cancer
Arguably the most emotional post-death reflection people are having is how dedicated Chadwick Boseman was to seeing young Black Panther fans who were dealing with cancer treatment. It’s no secret that MCU stars are known to frequent St. Jude’s and other childhood cancer treatment centers to surprise young fans with a once in a lifetime experience.
But for Boseman, it was a personal mission. The embedded tweet above features Boseman discussing two young Black Panther fans who were both unfortunately battling terminal cancer. During filming for Black Panther, Chadwick Boseman kept in constant contact with both fans, who told him they were fighting to survive long enough to see the finished film.
Unfortunately, both fans passed before the film’s 2018 release, and you can tell in the interview that their deaths affected Boseman. But looking back, it’s clear he connected to these boys because of his own fight, and them dying reminded Boseman of the inevitable end for him as well.
Chadwick Boseman spent his career bringing some of the best characters to life. The man was fighting cancer and managed to create some of the most important movies of the 21st century anyway. We hope that he finally is at peace, and our prayers are with the Boseman family at this time.