Chadwick Boseman was a hero in the Black community. Our hero. No longer cast as a sidekick, his Black Panther symbolized so much progress.
Chadwick Boseman had been battling colon cancer since 2016, according to a family statement.
« Wakanda Forever »: AÂ beloved cross-armed salute that signifies so much more following the death of « Black Panther » star Chadwick Boseman on Friday at age 43.
I will never forget bursting with pride when I saw « Black Panther » in theaters (twice) in February 2018 during Black History Month.Â I accompanied several children eager to see someone with the same skin color as them grace the big screen, but I would be lying if I said I wasnât just as giddy. I understood what this moment meant for myself and so many people.Â Â
In the plush theater seats,Â I was surrounded by so much rich culture: Moviegoers wore traditional African headdresses and garments to celebrate our ancestry and the audienceÂ collectively burst into applause when Bosemanâs King TâChalla reigned victorious.
In that moment, we all felt victorious because it was so much more than a movie.Â
Boseman was a hero in the Black community. Our hero. No longer cast as a sidekick, Bosemanâs Black Panther proudly symbolized so much progress. I can say that so many people felt celebrated for everything Black culture is in a world that frequently reminds us of what we aren’t.
Chadwick Boseman arrives at the 91st Academy Awards at the Dolby Theatre. (Photo: Robert Hanashiro, Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY NETWO)
It wasn’t until Boseman’s death that I learned he was a superhero off-screen as well. Boseman was diagnosed with stage III colon cancer in 2016, his family said in a statement Friday,Â meaning the star was secretly battling the insidious disease while filming a movie that would galvanize us all.Â
He showed up between surgeries and chemotherapy. The courage. The strength. The selflessness. The resilience. He fearlessly and silently fought for his life while inspiring a generation of boys and girls by pushing boundaries and ushering in a new era of representation.Â
In February 2018, Paul Perry Jr. displays the « Wakanda Forever » salute after seeing « Black Panther » in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo: Cydney Henderson, USA TODAY)
I saw it in the eyes of the children who were mesmerized by the screen. They could be anything they wanted. They could dream the wildest of dreams and see themselves as royalty.Â
« Black Panther » wasn’t just another stereotype. Boseman’s character was the king of the fictional country of Wakanda, a nation rich in history, tradition, technology and vibranium âÂ Â a far cry from the bleak and desolate imagesÂ of Africa that are often portrayed in films.
Boseman not only brought King T’Challa to life on the silver screen, but also Black icons Jackie Robinson (2013’s « 42 »), James Brown (2014’s « Get on Up ») andÂ Thurgood Marshall (2017’s « Marshall »).
He was a prime example of Black excellence.Â As the Black community continues to fight for equality against racism and injustices, this feels like another blow. Further insult to injury. His death hurts, more so afterÂ the recentÂ death of another Black icon, Kobe Bryant.Â
The pain that myself and the Black community feels is unrelenting and at times unbearable. But the way Boseman selflessly faced his battles should give us the courage to keep going. If he can do it, we must try.Â
« In times of crisis, the wise build bridges while the foolish build barriers, » Boseman’s T’ChallaÂ said to the U.N. Assembly during the post-credit scene of « Black Panther. »
Following the 2018 release of the film, I proudly participatedÂ in the âWakanda Foreverâ salute with my peers as aÂ sign to sayÂ that I truly see you. And tonight I will perform the salute again for Boseman.
I truly see the sacrifice you made and your legacy will forever live on in the generation you inspired.Â Rest in power, King.
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