Photo Credit: Photo by Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images for Disney
How Chadwick Boseman Gave The Diaspora The Wakanda We Needed
On Friday, the world lost a legend. More importantly, the African Diaspora lost a man that brought the beauty of our people to screens everywhere, for the world to see.
Chadwick Boseman passed away after a private 4-year battle with colon cancer. The Anderson, South Carolina native turned Howard University grad kept his struggles with the illness within his immediate circle as he effortlessly brought the stories of iconic Black figures to life.
In a statement issued via his social media accounts, we all learned that he delivered some of Black Hollywood’s most powerful movies all while going through chemotherapy and surgeries to prolong his life.
While his roles as Jackie Robinson in 42, James Brown in Get On Up, and Stormin’ Norman in Spike Lee’s Da Five Bloods were amazing in their own right, we can never forget the feeling he brought to the Diaspora as T’Challa in Marvel’s Black Panther.
Once promo began to roll out for the film in 2017, there was an immediate excitement from people all over to finally be able to see a movie dedicated entirely to a Black superhero. And not just any Black superhero, but one who lived in a futuristic African nation filled with the world’s most advanced technology and sought after resources.
When Black Panther released in 2018, it not only broke records in box offices worldwide, but we saw an immense sense of pride from Black people as we flooded theaters in our best African garb and gave the Wakanda salute for months to come.
Black and brown children finally saw a hero that looked like them. That year, we saw parents rushing to stores for Halloween costumes for their children who wanted to be Black Panther. Toy companies couldn’t keep T’Challa and other Black Panther action figures on the shelves, as everyone wanted something to forever remind them of the film in their home.
In a statement released by the film’s director, Ryan Coogler, we learned that Boseman worked tirelessly to ensure that the movie was flawless because he knew it would be the equivalent of Star Wars and Lord of the Rings, but for US.
When preparing for the film, he would ponder every decision, every choice, not just for how it would reflect on himself, but how those choices could reverberate. “They not ready for this, what we are doing…” “This is Star Wars, this is Lord of the Rings, but for us… and bigger!” He would say this to me while we were struggling to finish a dramatic scene, stretching into double overtime. Or while he was covered in body paint, doing his own stunts. Or crashing into frigid water, and foam landing pads. I would nod and smile, but I didn’t believe him. I had no idea if the film would work. I wasn’t sure I knew what I was doing. But I look back and realize that Chad knew something we all didn’t. He was playing the long game. All while putting in the work. And work he did. – Ryan Coogler
The world was able to see the greatness the Diaspora encompasses and nearly every Black person secretly wished that we could all pack up and move to Wakanda. We saw social media flood with fake passport stamps from Wakanda, and at one point people joked that Atlanta was our real-life version of it.
Boseman and his castmates showed us Black royalty amplified, and the importance of our connection to the ancestors.
Now, as Coogler pointed out, Boseman is among and is one of the ancestors.
The world truly lost a hero, not just in the acting world but in life. As we look back over Boseman’s career we can only admire him even more knowing that he worked until he literally had nothing left to give.
“When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, I used everything You gave me”- Chadwick Boseman. (Originally quoted by Erma Bombeck)
Thank you, Chadwick Boseman. Your hard work and perseverance will never be forgotten. Rest well, King. Wakanda Forever!