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Chadwick Boseman loved to visit and cheer up the children at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Artwork courtesy of Nikkolas Smith @nikkolas_smith

A tribute to Chadwick Boseman

The first time I saw “Black Panther” was at a movie theater located in a predominantly Black neighborhood on the South-side of Chicago. We were all excited to see a movie featuring strong, intelligent Black characters. I was especially looking forward to the fact that this film was defying Hollywood’s colorist views which favor actors with lighter skin tones. 

Never in my life have I experienced such an interactive audience in a movie theatre than I had when watching Black Panther. As an audience, we would enthusiastically cheer for Chadwick Boseman and the other actors, shouting out positive commentary. 

The communication that went on among the audience was not disruptive. Instead, it brought us together and created a sense of community, really speaking to Boseman’s talent as an actor. He used his power, with the films he starred in, to connect people in the Black/African community and encourage us to be proud of our roots and heritage. 

I was heartbroken upon hearing about Boseman’s death. The world just lost one of the most influential actors and role models of the century. It was recently revealed that Boseman had been battling colon cancer for four years. Only 43 years old when he passed away, his loss was terribly disheartening. I will always admire how during casual interviews he could be fun and loving, but also move the audience with his words. He was a role model.

Throughout his life, Boseman managed to touch and inspire the lives of many. As an incredibly talented Black actor, Boseman accomplished many great feats during his career. Graduating from Howard University, often referred to as the “Black Mecca,” he went on to break into the entertainment industry. 

The first job he landed in the television industry required him to portray a role that played into stereotypes about Black men. Boseman only lasted one day on this set; he was fired for courageously and justifiably choosing to question the way in which his character was written.

Boseman humbly relayed this story to graduates at the 2018 Commencement Speech for his alma mater. He ended his story by advising, “When you are deciding on next jobs, next steps … you would rather find purpose than a job or career … your very existence is wrapped up in the things you are here to fulfill.”

Boseman notably starred in movies that pay homage to prominent Black figures. For example, he played Jackie Robinson in “42,” James Brown in “Get on Up and Thurgood Marshall in “Marshall.” It is amazing to think that these are just a select few of all the powerful roles he has played.

Through these performances, Boseman initiated a widespread conversation about the Black experience. He understood that it is vital to give voice to the stories of Black people, which are often overlooked. Needless to say, the legacy he left behind will continue to serve as a powerful and positive influence for many Black and African generations to come.

It is no surprise that one of his most illustrious roles is that of King T’Challa in “Black Panther.” This remarkable movie featured, empowered, and uplifted Africans and Black people. 

At the 25th annual Screen Actors Guild Awards, Boseman gave an acceptance speech on behalf of the “Black Panther cast for the award of Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Movie. Here, he eloquently declared, “To be young, gifted and Black. … We all know what it’s like to be told that there is not a place for you to be featured … We knew we could create a world that exemplified a world that we wanted to see. … If you get to experience that, you will be a fulfilled artist.” 

Damilola Ojikutu, sophomore Global Studies major, reflects on the impact Boseman had on his life, “I was deeply affected by Chadwick’s death because as a kid, while I lived around Black people, I never really saw accurate representations of Africans on TV, and Africans already had such a negative rep. But, ‘Black Panther‘ really turned the tide. I really loved that film, and it’s a shame to see him go.”

Boseman was dedicated to using his platform to give back to society. Many times, he visited children fighting cancer at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in order to lift their spirits. It is now clearer than ever why he was able to relate to these children on a highly personal level.

One of Boseman’s greatest traits was his belief in humanity. For this, he will remain beloved and will never be forgotten. And of course, for his selflessness and the extensive impact he made during his lifetime, it is only fitting that we remember him for what he truly was — a king. 

Article by Niara Richards.