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Why Chadwick Boseman’s Death Hits Home So Hard

2020 has been a rough year for many. From the Coronavirus and quarantining to police brutality and protests; too many times this year I’ve found myself looking at the “new normal” being rolled out before me asking, “is this real?” Some days, if I’m honest, I’ve felt like I am an extra in a movie. Yesterday evening, when I got a text asking whether or not I had heard that Chadwick Boseman died of cancer, I had one of those moments.

When I saw the name in the text, I was taken aback, not fully sure if the face I was thinking of belonged to the face of the man—so I googled it just to make sure. When I saw the media outlets flooding posts and pictures confirming the face I was seeing in my mind, my heart dropped. Reflecting upon the pause(s) I took after hearing the news, I wondered why it was hitting me so hard. Here’s what I gathered.

Chadwick Boseman became more than an actor for me after I saw Black Panther in 2018. The film was one of the best Black films I had seen in a long time. It showed me possibilities of the future and my race's place in the future. It magnified my pride in my Blackness and my love and appreciation for the Black woman. It inspired hope and provoked thought. Everything about the movie was uplifting for me; everything. T’Challa, portrayed by Chadwick Boseman, however, represented an ideal—an idea even— that transcended the movie and the role. As I see it, The T'Challa character inspired me to be a better Black man. He represented the best of us; the most moral and just of us—and set a high standard of a Black family man, a Black cultured man, and an authentic Black male leader.

I will speak for myself here, but I think I superimposed all of T'Challa's qualities on to Chadwick Boseman— and the respect and admiration I had for the character went directly to the actor. As a student of the stage myself, I know that actors can't bring out on stage what doesn't exist somewhere inside of them in real life. This news was so devastating, in my view, because of what Chadwick Boseman represented to me and what he was able to bring to life in a moving picture. Bringing that kind of character to life is no easy task— and the fact that his real life was consistent with what so many of us loved about the character makes me realize on a deeper level, our super-impositions are not too far from the truth.

I write this post to honor Chadwick Boseman's commitment to his art and the sacrifices he made to produce mind changing and soul lifting works—even as he suffered quietly. I encourage others who felt a heavy loss similar to mine, to internalize and embody the very best of T’Challa (the character) and Chad Boseman (the man) so that the pride and love and inspiration we received from all of his works will live on like Wakanda; forever.

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