The Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) are amazing institutions. Graduates of those universities have made outstanding contributions to our society and beyond. They reflect the best and brightest this country has to offer. Producing stars that shine and guide those that follow.
Those constellations got another light to shine the way - albeit a little too early. Chadwick Boseman succumbed to cancer not too long ago.
I wrote a post on LinkedIn but it seemed somehow insufficient. His work was amazing: Thurgood Marshall, Jackie Robinson. But none more iconic than Black Panther. The first superhero movie to be nominated for an Oscar. The first superhero movie with a black protagonist. With an all black cast. And a plot intertwining the modern reflections of slavery.
It broke barriers. Proved that black directors and a predominately black cast can be a box office success. $1.3 billion worth. Proved that a movie with a largely female cast in strong roles can generate box office and critical success. But more importantly it gave millions of children heroes they could relate to: T'Challa. Shuri. Okoye. These are Steve Rogers, Tony Stark and Bruce Wayne for a different demographic. And they are equals. In power and ability.
Shuri’s intelligence is shown to rival both Stark’s and Bruce Banner’s in Avengers: Infinity War. Black Panther and Captain America fight to a standstill in Captain America: Civil War. T'Challa’s wealth rivals - perhaps surpasses that of Tony Stark. They are not lesser. They are equal.
And Chadwick Boseman was at the heart of it. And he did it while battling colon cancer. Amazing.
Just battling cancer is a heroic feat. I lost my mother to ovarian cancer a decade ago. My neighbor died of cancer right around the same time as Chaswick Boseman. Maybe that’s why it has taken me a while to write this. Perhaps that’s why I cried a little harder. Memories do that.
I saw what my mother went thru in her 5 year battle. Appointments. Procedures. The medications that sapped her strength. Anyone who has seen a friend or loved one go thru those treatments knows how draining that is. Physically. Emotionally.
For Chadwick Boseman to go thru that and still shoot a movie ... much less several:
Captain America Civil War,
Gods of Egypt,
Message from the King,
Avengers: Infinity War,
Da 5 Bloods,
and the soon to be released Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. And not just the filming. There are worldwide press tours and appearances - especially for the Marvel movies. In. Four. Years ... That is incredible.
It is in some way a testament to how much he willed the characters he played to life. In stories that have come out since his death people have said how much he cared about Black Panther. Working on every aspect. Helping with casting of minor parts. Working thru the scripting to make sure the characters were portrayed correctly - dignified, regal.
He cared because he knew how much this movie would mean to people. In a press conference around the release of the movie he broke down in relating a story about the fans. He had evidently been corresponding with 2 young fans who were both terminally ill but were determined to stay alive to see the movie. They wanted to see a superhero that looked like them before they died.
That’s how much it meant to people. And he knew that. And fought cancer to make it happen.
Onscreen heroes don’t always live up to their billing offscreen... when the lights are off and the special effects are gone. But this one did. And he will be a light that guides generations. RIP. God Bless.