Our Real Life Black SuperHero: Chadwick Boseman’s Death Leaves A Legacy

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Chadwick Boseman died on Friday, August 28th, of Cancer at the age of 43. Boseman died at his home in the Los Angeles area with his wife and family by his side, his publicist Nicki Fioravante told The Associated Press. Boseman had not spoken publicly about his diagnosis. He is survived by his wife and a parent and had no children, Fioravante said.

He was a prominent Black actor who intensely portrayed the roles of Black American icons in movies such as depicting Jackie Robinson and James Brown. He played in the regal Black Panther Marvel blockbuster movie as superhero King T’challa. What is unimaginable and part of what makes Chadwick a real life superhero is that the actor played these revolutionary characters that defined Black Hollywood and American history, all while quietly undergoing treatment for the cancer that took his life at age 43. The actor had spent the last four years battling colon cancer.

This timeline means he was diagnosed in 2016—the year that he debuted as King T’Challa in Marvel’s Captain America: Civil War. And it means that after his diagnosis, Boseman filmed and appeared in Marshall, Black Panther, two more Avengers movies, 21 Bridges, Spike Lee’s Da 5 Bloods, and an upcoming adaptation of Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. This output is immense coming from an actor who had only been making major Hollywood films for two years before his big Marvel break—a superstar run that seems all the more miraculous in light of the knowledge that Boseman pulled it off while quietly undergoing many surgeries and rounds of chemotherapy.

Image: Chadwick Boseman as T’challa, Black Panther

When the actor was accepting the MTV Movie & TV Award for best hero in a movie, he invited James Shaw Jr. to the stage. Shaw is responsible for stopping the gunman in a deadly shooting at a Waffle House in Tennessee in April that killed four people.

Image: Chadwick Boseman and James Shaw Jr, MTV Awards.

Receiving an award for playing a superhero is amazing, but it’s even greater to acknowledge the heroes that we have in real life,” Boseman said. “So I just want to acknowledge somebody that’s here today. James Shaw Jr. Where are you? Stand. If you don’t know James Shaw Jr., he fought off a gunman in Antioch, Tennessee at a Waffle House. He saved lives. Come on up here.

Shaw then took the stage and Bozeman handed him the golden popcorn award, “This is gonna live at your house.”

This act of selflessness and spirit of social justice, pushing for a purposeful narrative beyond oneself is what Chadwick Boseman defined with his existence.

When he gave his famous Howard Commencement Speech, tears poured on the faces of the newly minted graduates. He spoke powerfully about living a life of purpose on purpose.

Image: Chadwick Boseman giving Commencement Speech, Howard University.

Bozeman told the graduates,

When you have reached the hilltop and deciding on next steps, jobs, careers, further education… , you will rather find purpose than a job or career. Purpose crosses disciplines. Purpose is an essential element of you. It is the reason you are on the planet at this particular time in history. Your very existent is wrapped up in the things you are meant to fulfill.  Whatever you choose for a career path, remember the struggles along the way are only meant  to shape you for your  purpose. I don’t know what your future is but if you are willing to take the harder way, the more complicated one, the one with more failures at first than successes, the one that has ultimately proven to have more meaning, more victory,  more glory then you will not regret it. Now, this is your time! I  love you Howard. Howard forever!

Bozeman told the crowd of a time in his acting career when he was cast in a role but found himself conflicted about the character he was supposed to portray. He felt the role seemed to be wrapped in assumptions about the black community, and he raised the issue with executives on the show.

You should watch his entire Howard commencement Speech below:

Bozeman was born the youngest of three boys and raised in Anderson, S.C., by his mother, who worked as a nurse, and father, who worked in a textile factory. When he was a junior in high school, Bozeman wrote and staged a play about the shooting death of a basketball teammate, which turned his life towards the arts. He studied Theatre Arts at Howard University, where he was mentored by Felicia Rashad and at the the British American Drama Academy.

Boseman with wife Taylor Simone Ledward.

After moving to New York, Bozeman was a part of the local theater scene, and began landing guest roles on shows like “Law & Order,” “CSI: NY” and “ER,” as well as a series regular part on the NBC mystery “Persons Unknown.” Bozeman’s first big break, however, came when he was cast in “42” to play Jackie Robinson, the first Black man to play in Major League Baseball. Boseman didn’t land a significant movie role until he was in his mid-30s. Boseman, who was private about his personal life, even managing to keep his cancer battle secret, had been dating singer Taylor Simone Ledward. They were reportedly engaged in October 2019. The pair are thought to have said their vows in a private ceremony before the actor’s cancer advanced.

His family said in a statement:

A true fighter, Chadwick persevered through it all, and brought you many of the films you have come to love so much,” his family said. “From Marshall to Da 5 Bloods, August Wilson’s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom and several more – all were filmed during and between countless surgeries and chemotherapy. It was the honor of his career to bring King T’Challa to life in Black Panther.

It is interesting to note that Boseman’s legacy will be the incredible body of work he created in just seven years: a catalog of heroic figures similarly frozen in time, to be remembered forever, as mentioned in this Atlantic tribute.

Many greats around the world such as Viola Davis , Jordan Peele, Bob Iger, Joe Biden, Kamala Harris and other fellow actors, athletes, musicians, Hollywood titans, fans and politicians have shared heart touching tributes and memories about this Actor who leaves a legacy behind and will be truly missed. The NAACP paid tribute to the actor, saying Boseman showed “us how to conquer adversity with grace.”

“For showing us how to ‘Say it Loud!’ For (showing) us how to walk as a King, without losing the common touch. For showing us just how powerful we are,” their Instagram statement said. “Thank you #ChadwickBoseman.”

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