On Aug. 28, the world lost yet another powerful role model.
Chadwick Boseman lost his life at the age of 43 to a four year battle with colon cancer. His death devastated generations of viewers who idolized him on the big screen, particularly people of color like myself.
Thinking back, Boseman’s roles are an inspiration to me.
Before I watched his movies, I was hesitant to speak openly about my Jamaican and Surinamese cultures or post pictures of myself in my cultural attire. People would make fun of me, and I would have to defend my family. Few people know that Suriname exists, so I typically just generalize myself by saying I’m Caribbean.
But after “Black Panther” came out, I realized my culture is a critical part of my identity, and I must embrace it in spite of others’ ignorance. This film not only highlighted the importance of Black culture, but it also helped me understand my identity will never change.
“Black Panther” not only gave me the confidence to live my truth, but also to be unapologetically Black. Through his other films, including “42” and “Marshall,” Boseman was able to take prominent figures in Black history and bring their stories to life.
Boseman had been battling cancer since 2016, during which he was still playing lead roles in films, BBC News reported.
Following his diagnosis, Boseman worked on the sets of “Da 5 Bloods,” “Avengers: Infinity War,” “Avengers: Endgame,” “21 Bridges” and countless other films. He did this all while still undergoing surgery and chemotherapy, a testament to how mentally and physically strong he was.
Boseman was also a superhero on screen and in real life.
He visited pediatric cancer patients at the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, while he was fighting his own battle with cancer at the same time. Boseman made it a habit to support cancer patients in whatever way he could, according to Variety Magazine.
His first movie I viewed was “42” in the seventh grade. After reading the autobiography of the baseball legend Jackie Robinson and completing a series of assignments, we were rewarded with watching “42,” the biographical film about Robinson starring Boseman, in class.
I was starstruck, to say the least.
After learning about Boseman’s death, I started compiling a list of my favorite scenes from his filmography. The one that sticks out the most to me is the final battle in “Avengers: Endgame.” It was exhilarating to see the first Black Marvel superhero on the big screen, and his determination and talent made it come full circle.
Boseman, playing the role of King T’Challa, walks out of a portal alongside his companions Shuri and Okoye to save the day. Watching that scene in theaters was extremely emotional for me. It was like seeing an old friend after a long time, and it sent an adrenaline rush through my veins.
Black culture is often appropriated in our society through hair, clothing and language. Seeing a movie celebrating Black culture with a diverse cast who executed their roles with such poise and grace helped me realize our culture is vast and beautiful.
I learned not to hide my identity, but rather to showcase it for the world to see. I was proud to see a cast, so unique yet unified, who looked like me.
We have truly lost a compassionate, influential and talented man. He encouraged me to follow my dreams, as someone who looked like me was finally playing a superhero in a blockbuster film. He inspired me to be proud of who I am and not apologize for it.
Rest in peace to Chadwick Boseman — a legend, a king and a superhero.