Chadwick Boseman was an American actor, alma mater of Howard University and British American Drama Academy, and a hero to many young children out there. And as shocking as it seems, in what feels like one of the vilest periods of the century, Chadwick Boseman passed away on 28 August, after suffering for 4 years from colon cancer.
It’s surprising that Chadwick Boseman, given his stature today, didn’t land a significant movie role until he was in his mid 30s. He mostly appeared in one-off parts on television until he was cast as the baseball legend Jackie Robinson in the 2013 biopic 42. This exemplifies that Chadwick Boseman’s career was just at its beginning rather than the midline.
Boseman was always a man with a progressive mindset, a man with the urge to uplift Black culture with the veneration it deserved, to make people perceive the heights that the Black community can achieve if given the opportunity. He was a cultural icon on whom people had faith and expectations.
“The projects that I end up doing, that I want to be involved with in any way, have always been projects that will be impactful, for the most part, to my people — to Black people. To see Black people in ways which you have not seen them before.”
Chadwick Boseman’s roles included important and iconic African-American historical figures such as Jackie Robinson in 42 (2013), James Brown in Get on Up (2014), and Thurgood Marshall in Marshall (2017). Boseman as Stormin’ Norm, waxing poetic about the Black struggle during the Vietnam War era, was powerful to behold in Da 5 Bloods.
However, Boseman’s character in the ninth-highest-grossing film of all time Black Panther by Marvel Studios, known as T’Challa or more popularly Black Panther, was the most iconic role of his career; it was powerful enough to disseminate the message of cultural diversification throughout the world. Black Panther was the first film produced by Marvel Studios with a predominantly Black cast.
Black Panther wove a complex tapestry of various ideologies, pulling from the Blacks-in-science idea, the nationalist idea, the collective-world idea. Black Panther was so important to Chadwick Boseman that he even went to South Africa to learn Xhosa with the help of a coach. He spoke with CNET about the film’s importance not just to himself, but to Black people in the United States and the whole world.
“It’s just this tremendous opportunity, not just for me but for all of us really, to get out of our boxes. It’s not just Black people getting out of their boxes. Everybody is excited about the opportunity to do something that we should have already done. People are excited about seeing new stuff, but I think they’re extra excited about seeing stuff they should have seen already.”
Black Panther deftly explored subversive and probing concerns around race, history, heritage, and identity. It mingled the cultures of Africans and African-Americans. Both communities were delineated in the film with distinct accents and dress up which clearly upheld cultural diversity. This was all profusely appreciated by audiences and critics alike, which would not have been possible without Boseman’s skillful and passionate acting.
Chadwick Boseman as Black Panther inspired and continues to inspire many young children and the youth, not only of Black origin, but also white descendants. He has become a hero that children can look up to, and seeing whom the youth can find in themselves the inner power to uplift themselves.
“I love it. You see how much it means. There was one kid [fighting cancer] who used the Black Panther as sort of his inspiration. He saw himself as a Wakandan, he saw himself as having the spirit of Wakanda in his fight. The fact that he chose you, that’s the world he lives in. It does mean a lot.”
The character was so significant to him, that when he received the offer there was “no way in the world you’re going to say no because there’s a lot of opportunity for magic to happen”. It was very important because the oscars are very much white-dominated, and in such a situation Chadwick Boseman strived to make art by Black people equally impactful.
Other than the Black Panther movie itself, Chadwick Boseman as Black Panther appeared in three other Marvel films, namely Captain America: Civil War, Avengers: Infinity War, and Avengers: Endgame.
The most appreciative and noteworthy trait that Chadwick Boseman had was that he pulled it off — Marshall, Black Panther, three more Avengers movies, 21 Bridges, Spike Lee’s Da 5 Bloods, and an upcoming adaptation of Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom — all while quietly undergoing numerous surgeries and rounds of chemotherapy for 4 years. He truly is a superhero. In the words of Spike Lee:
“Chad is a superhero! That character is Christlike…there’s light from heaven coming down from above on him.”
*Iqhawe means “Hero” in Xhosa.
The writer is a part of the TDA Editorial Team.