T’Challa: That is not what I am talking about. I am not ready to be without you.
Late last night, I opened my phone to the beginning trickle of unfathomable news. Chadwick Boseman. Gone to cancer at 43.
There is the original spiral of disbelief that comes with news like this. In a world full of overdisclosure, Chadwick fought his battle against colon cancer privately over 5 years. Diagnosed in 2016, we now know that so many of the characters the he brought to the screen were delivered between countless surgeries and rounds of chemotherapy as he fought the good fight against something that so many of us have also faced.
Chadwick Boseman was in so many ways exactly what the world needed. He brought us something to aspire to. Something for little girls and boys who looked like him to know what they might one day be. And something for grown men and women to aspire to be, no matter what they looked like.
He didn’t just bring us the legends of James Brown and Jackie Robinson. He brought us the humans behind those legends. And we now know that he didn’t just bring us T’Challa and Thurgood Marshall – but he brought us those legends while fighting a very human battle himself.
This morning I rewatched old footage of his press tour for Black Panther. He told the story of two young boys who had been fighting cancer and were hoping to hold on long enough to see the movie’s release. For a moment while recanting this, he got choked up beyond the ability to speak. Knowing now what we didn’t then, it’s apparent that he, too, was probably hoping to hold on long enough to see the film – and, beyond that, what more he could bring to the world before he was gone.
Chadwick Boseman left us at 43 years old. And beyond what he taught us as James or Jackie or Marshall or T’Challa is what he taught us as himself. We are all capable of bringing light into the world, no matter what our battles or demons. We are all capable of humanizing the characters that we take on. And we are all silently fighting battles that deserve compassion and kindness and the benefit of the doubt from the world around us.
T’Challa: Wakanda will no longer watch from the shadows. We can not. We must not. We will work to be an example of how we, as brothers and sisters on this earth, should treat each other. Now, more than ever, the illusions of division threaten our very existence. We all know the truth: more connects us than separates us. But in times of crisis the wise build bridges, while the foolish build barriers. We must find a way to look after one another, as if we were one single tribe.
Rest in peace, my friend. Our hearts are with your family.