“You have to cherish things in a different way when you know the clock is ticking.” – Chadwick Boseman
In the wake of the Black Lives Matter demonstrations, it is important, now more than ever, to reflect upon the black men and women that have created history and paved the way for the black community.
Born to two African-American parents in South Carolina, Chadwick Boseman spent most of his high school years playing basketball for the T.L Hanna High School basketball team. He had never previously considered acting or anything to do with the creative arts until his junior year.
After a classmate was shot and killed, Boseman was inspired to write and stage his own play, ‘Crossroads’. In an interview with Rolling Stone, he stated that he “just had a feeling that this was something that was calling me”.
Chadwick appeared on our screens long before ‘Black Panther’, having had roles in iconic shows such as ‘All My Children’ and ‘ER’ but it wasn’t until 2016 that he catapulted to international stardom.
T’Challa, AKA Black Panther, first appeared in ‘Captain America: Civil War’, the 13th film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Despite having less than 12 minutes of screen time, Boseman’s portrayal of the first black superhero in the 2016 MCU film stole the show. Suddenly there was an African character at the forefront of Hollywood blockbuster. The fact that it took Marvel 8 years to put this character on the big screen is disappointing in itself but Boseman made this role his own.
Two years later, he starred in ‘Black Panther’, which was perhaps one of the first multimillion budget films to have a black director as well as predominately black cast. The film followed the title character’s *spoiler alert* struggle with the death of his father and his accession to the Wakandan throne. It also focuses on the sheltered upbringing that the prince has led and his being unaware of the systematic racism that many black people face around the globe.
This plot point was incredibly important to Boseman as he had always been vocal about the racism he had to deal with on a day-to-day basis. In a 2018 HuffPost interview, he reflected on some of these instances and the importance of diversity in creating change.
The news of Chadwick’s death was one that was shocking in itself. It was revealed that the actor had been dealing with a colon cancer diagnosis for four years. This meant that he had filmed nine films while undergoing treatment including his portrayal of T’Challa. Many could not comprehend the loss of this hugely important figure and the fact that he had given so much to acting community during such a difficult point in his life.
This strength to carry on is reflective of Boseman’s character and his ability to assure that times are changing and that black people can be and deserve to be reflected in the mass media, to have their stories told and to be given fully-realised characterisations. It is important to remember his legacy especially in these terbulantant times, that life is what we make of it.
Featured Image: Billboard