Losing a King :: The Death of Chadwick Boseman

Losing a King :: The Death of Chadwick Boseman

We lost a king last week.

I didn’t know Chadwick Boseman. I never met him. It isn’t likely that I ever would have. And yet I’m grieving. Lips pressed tightly. Eyes full of water. Selfishly. Shedding tears for my own loss. And for the contributions from this young king that the world will never know. 

I first knew him as T’Challa. The Black Panther. Heir to the throne of Wakanda.

As with all new additions to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, we prepared accordingly. We don’t ever miss MCU opening weekends. But this one would be different. This one would be filled with people that looked like me. And like my children. Filled with all the infinite number of shades of black people-ish-ness. In roles UNlike the ones we often see – slave, criminal, housekeeper or sidekick. This time would be Kings. And queens. Warrriors. Scientists. Superheroes. In all the infinite number of shades of black people-ish-ness. This one would be different. And we were here for it.

For the Culture

I can’t even give proper credit to what Black Panther was for the culture. Chadwick Boseman became the icon for a world we wished we could be a part. We connected with him and the country he governed. T’Challa was everything one could want in a leader. Intelligent. Strong. Honorable. Brave. Humble. Easy on the eyes. Kind. Generous. Selfless. Dignified. It didn’t even matter that the character and the country were not real. Or that they were created for the screen to entertain us. It didn’t matter at all. He brought the entire experience alive for us and we lived in that moment. 

For most Black Americans, we have zero idea of our pre Middle Passage heritage. That was by design. Slavery ensured we would be stripped of any connection to our existence before we were shipped across the Atlantic Ocean. But in that one hundred thirty five minutes – we were home. For 135 minutes. He gave us a motherland. Ancestors. A king. And a hero.

And we were happy to claim it all as our own. 

Wearing the Mask

What we didn’t know was that while we were heralding T’Challa as king, something more extraordinary was happening behind the scenes. The real life king was valiantly fighting for his own life. While he privately battled colon cancer with chemotherapy and surgery for four years – publicly, Chadwick Boseman never stopped performing the work that he loved, lifting others or speaking love and life into the world. He kept on living.

I’ve watched the progression of colon cancer from diagnosis to final stages. It isn’t pretty. It is devastating. I am certain that some of his days were hell, and yet he wore the mask. Like superheroes do.

Finding {a Tiny Bit of} Solace

This is the year that keeps on giving the gifts no one wants to receive. 2020. Cancer. They both suck big eggs. But I will keep trying to find the silver linings or at the very least identify the lesson in the experience. Watching Chadwick walking the red carpet with Lupita, Danai and Letitia at the Black Panther 2 premiere would have been infinitely better than trying to make sense of his death. But alas, we have to play the hand we’ve been dealt. I needed something to cling on to… something.

Through tears, I’ve watched more video clips and read more articles than a little bit over the last couple of days and I have managed to find some solace in his legacy. He did indeed leave us some lessons in many of these most memorable moments.

  • Recognize the people that helped you get – where you were trying to go.
  • All your business – AIN’T – everybody else’s business. Just because YOU don’t know, doesn’t mean that other people aren’t going through some major ish. So just be kind. And get you a squad like his. One that will protect your wishes as fiercely as his did. Also, just be kind.
  • Making people happy doesn’t have to be hard. Sometimes all you need to do is show up. This is one of my favorite clips ever; I skip between giggles and tears the whole time watching the surprise and joy on the faces of his fans.
  • Find ways to give back.
  • Give people their flowers.
  • Representation matters.
  • Use your platform to inspire others.
  • Keep on living. 

Mourning the Loss of the Man

I’m not mourning alone. Not even close. ABC aired a commercial free showing of Black Panther to be followed with an hour long special tribute to the life and work of Chadwick Boseman. South Carolina, his home state, ordered the Statehouse flags to be flown at half-staff. And not least of all, my social media and inbox are filled with the evidence of his work and the way in which he touched the lives of others. He was an example on screen… and off. 

Intelligent. Strong. Honorable. Brave. Humble. Easy on the eyes. Kind. Generous. Selfless. Dignified.

We were proud to call you our king.

#WakandaForever

You have to cherish things in a different way when you know the clock is ticking.  – Chadwick Boseman


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