Last night I wept more than I have for any celebrity who’s passed away in hearing of Chadwick Boseman’s death. Part of it was shock losing someone young and sadness that I wouldn’t have the privilege of continuing to watch him masterfully commit to characters on screen over the years. But those were small things and most of my tears sprung from a deep well of grieving for the loss of an artist who gave so much for the people he loved.
Chadwick Boseman was a Black actor who chose to tell Black stories because he loved Black people. In a world full of antagonism for and violence toward Blackness, he stepped onto sets and stages and gave us images of Black icons. He played men who’ve both lived in real life and in our imaginations, creating a legendary body of work that made Black folks proud of our pasts and hopeful in our present and future.
All while cancer grew in his body.
I can’t imagine what it felt like for this brother to have received a diagnosis and then become T’Challa. What it meant for him to work longs days, learn accents, do fight scenes, and memorize lines as chemotherapy and other drugs fought cancer cells in his body. I can’t imagine what it meant for Chadwick to commit to the tours and the awards circuits while being sick and needing rest but finding something deep in him to gift us with that beautiful smile that reached his eyes before throwing up the X that’s become a symbol of Black imagination and freedom.
This brilliant man from South Carolina didn’t owe the world a thing but he gifted us with film after film that centered Black power and Black pride. He masterfully lived into characters that gave Black people all over the world something to gather around and delight in that reflected us and our cultures. I’ve often said we can all do something good in the world with what we have and Chadwick used his skill as an actor and charisma as a person to make things that gave and will give generations of us something to press toward and believe in.
And for that I say thank you to our brother who is gone sooner than any of us could’ve ever imagined. Thank you for your love, thank you for your art, thank you for giving us hope and joy we so desperately needed.
It’s to you and for your sake that I say “Long live the King”. May you take your rest in the ancestral realm as we celebrate your life and the legacy you left us, dear Chadwick. May peace abide with all who had the privilege of loving you intimately as you loved all of us.