Today marks one year since Chadwick Boseman passed away, but his legacy lives on. He might have been a fan-favorite superhero in the MCU, but he was a real-life superhuman.
Chadwick Boseman had a stellar but short acting career, with outstanding performances as Jackie Robinson in “42,” James Brown in “Get on Up,” and Thurgood Marshall in “Marshall.”
However, his portrayal of King T’Challa in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) truly launched him to worldwide fame after “Black Panther” was released. The context was crucial.
Chadwick Boseman at the Ritz-Carlton Georgetown, Washington, DC on Monday March 18, 2013 | Photo: Getty Images
In August 2017, a large group of White nationalists marched through the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. The rally turned deadly when James Fields drove his car into a crowd of counter-protesters, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer and injuring 19 others.
Six months later, “Black Panther” – the first blockbuster superhero movie led by a Black cast – was released. Amid the agitated racial tension, the film sparked pride in Black communities as it was widely regarded as a celebration of Africa’s heritage.
Without Boseman, it wouldn’t have been the same because he didn’t allow stereotypes and ensured the African culture depicted in the film was treated with respect.
He created a cultural icon out of his MCU character, and people identified with it. We all remember how popular the “Wakanda Forever” salute was with everyone, including professional athletes, using the salute.
The film's impact was so profound that a college student even went viral for giving a presentation about the power struggle in Wakanda, the fictional country where “Black Panther” events occur.
Boseman knew the impressive impact the movie would have even before it came out. He spoke about it during a press conference days before “Black Panther” premiered.
Aside from films, the actor was also a philanthropist. He would do everything from donating $4.2 million worth of PPE to hospitals helping Black communities during the coronavirus pandemic to visiting different childhood cancer treatment centers to surprise young fans. During one visit, he met Ian and Taylor, two kids dealing with terminal cancer.
People see Boseman’s “kind but determined face” when they think of Black heroes.
Throughout filming, he kept in touch with the children and revealed that they told him they were holding on until “Black Panther” was released. Fighting back tears, Boseman said they passed away before the movie came out. He added:
“To a certain degree, you hear them say that, and you’re like, ‘I got to get up and go to the gym, go to work, learn these lines, work on this accent.’”
Now that we know Boseman himself was fighting colon cancer while visiting sick children and working in the movie, his words and actions take on a more significant meaning.
He was diagnosed with stage III colon cancer in 2016 but never made the information public. On August 28, 2020, Boseman passed away, surrounded by his wife and family at his Los Angeles home. He was just 43 years old.
His “21 Bridges” co-star Sienna Miller once confessed that the star donated part of his salary to boost hers as he believed it was what she deserved. “It was about the most astounding thing that I've experienced,” Miller said.
Boseman’s philanthropic work, random acts of kindness, outstanding career, and impact in the Black community made his value as a human being more significant than the heroism of his character in “Black Panther.” He was – and will always be – a real-life hero. Wakanda Forever!
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