Sunday, August 30, 2020

Remembering Chadwick Boseman

Chadwick was such an elegant man with great integrity and tremendous talent. He inspired an entire generation to stand up and be king. Honor him by emulating him – show kindness and love to others. Share your talents in ways that impact. Always strive to be a light in the darkness.

– The Russo Brothers, film directors
via Twitter
August 29, 2020

It's been quite some time since the death of someone from the entertainment world has impacted me as much as that of actor Chadwick Boseman, who died Friday at the age of 43.

Since 2016, Boseman had been living with colon cancer, something about which he never spoke publicly. Like many people, I heard about his passing late Friday night on social media. I was both shocked and saddened.

Above: The tweet announcing the death of Chadwick Boseman. It is now the most liked tweet of all time. Twitter confirmed the accolade on its own verified account Saturday, stating: “Most liked Tweet ever. A tribute fit for a King. #WakandaForever.”

Boseman is greatly respected within the Black community for his cinematic portrayal of revered Black figures Jackie Robinson (in 2013's 42), James Brown (2014's Get on Up), and Thurgood Marshall (2017's Marshall).

Worldwide, Chadwick Boseman is celebrated for his inspirational performance as the titular character in the Marvel Cinematic Universe's Black Panther (2018), which broke both box office records and cultural barriers.

As King T’Challa / Black Panther, Boseman also appeared in Marvel's Captain America: Civil War (2016), Avengers: Infinity War (2018), and Avengers: End Game (2019).

Last year Boseman starred in 21 Bridges, an action/thriller. Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, which is currently in post-production, will be his final film role. It's based on the acclaimed play of the same name by August Wilson.

Following is a video montage by Variety celebrating the life and legacy of Chadwick Boseman. (NOTE: Sources conflict on whether Boseman was born in 1976 or 1977; the most reliable and relevant sources agree on 1976.)

It was reported last year that Boseman had signed on to a film project in which he would play Yasuke, the Japanese name of a samurai of African origin who fought under Japanese warlord Oda Nobunaga during the 1580s. According to The Hollywood Reporter, “the period action drama is based on the historical tale of the only known African to reach the samurai ranking in feudal Japan.” Sadly, Boseman died before filming of Yasuke commenced.

His role as Yasuke would have continued his commitment to portraying historical Black figures of strength and dignity. That commitment is now Boseman's legacy, about which Leslie McLemore writes:

Chadwick was genuine. He was at peace. Like, he knew who he was.

Like, he knew he was here to serve a purpose.

He took on these roles for us because he knew the stories needed to be told. He knew the stories of Black icons, both real and fictional, needed to be told. Because they were all superheroes. Black superheroes who were flawed. Black superheroes who were heroic. Black superheroes who needed their story told.

And Chadwick gave it to us.

This unselfish, genuine Black soul gave us all he had. He gave us his Black soul so these Black souls he either birthed or resurrected could continue to live, and fall, and prosper through the art of cinema.

. . . Black Panther meant everything to us. It meant everything to me. I’ve always love being Black. I'm always proud to be Black. And I didn't think I could love being Black more, or proud to be Black more. But he made me love being Black a little bit more. He made me proud to be Black just a little bit more. When he put on that Black Panther suit, it lovingly made me proud to be Black just a little bit more.

Tamoria Jones similarly writes:

Chad played roles that embodied the true essence of who we are as Black people. He didn’t take the traditional slave roles, or roles where we overcame being black, or the gangster role, or the crackhead role.

Chad embodied the true essence of who we are as Black people. We are lawyers breaking barriers (Marshall). We are talented athletes (42 and The Express). We’re singers and songwriters (Get on Up). Last but certainly not least, we are Super Heroes (Black Panther).

This is the true essence and a mere glimpse of who we are as Black people. To lose a person, a legend, an icon, who embodied these roles to showcase for the world to see, hits home for all of us.

Taken from us so young, but your memories will more than certainly live on. May God take your pain away, and you rest heavenly in peace!

I found myself drawn to Chadwick Boseman and his performances for a number of reasons. One was the gravitas that imbued so much of what he said and did.

In watching and listening to him perform, I was often reminded of Jane Fonda's description of Vanessa Redgrave, whose voice, said Fonda, always “seems to come from some deep place that knows all suffering and all secrets” and who always seems to be “in another reality, working off some secret, magnetic, inner rhythm.”

Of course, in retropect, one can't help but wonder to what extent Boseman's awareness of and private struggle with a terminal illness contributed to his cultivation of – and living from – this “deep place that knows all suffering and all secrets.” We're all capable of creating such places within ourselves, a creation often set in motion by the ways we chose to respond to adversity, tragedy, and loss. Our grounding in and living from such a place can't help but kindle a “secret, magnetic, inner rhythm.” Such a rhythm was brought to life within Boseman, one which both inspired and shone through his performances.

The cultivation and embodiment of such a deep inner rhythm of awareness and empathy is, of course, a choice; the choice to cultivate and embody soul.

Chadwick was (and will forever remain) a beautiful soul.

I also found Chadwick, physically, to be an incredibly beautiful man . . . and a stylish dresser to boot. This can be readily seen in each and every photo of him!

At right, for instance, Chad is pictured with his wife, Taylor Simone Ledward, at the 2019 premiere of 21 Bridges.

Following are a few more pics of the stylishly-dressed Chadwick Boseman.

As a gay man, I not only appreciated Chadwick Boseman's looks and sense of style, but also the queer sensibility with which he imbued the character and story of T'challa / Black Panther.

The film Black Panther is, of course, based on Stan Lee and Jack Kirby's revolutionary comic book character of the same name. And as I've noted previously at The Wild Reed, Black Panther, as both a comic book and a film, has a definite queer appeal.

What do I mean by this? . . . Well, I've come to understand that to be “queer” is to attempt to expand or go beyond (in thought, word or deed) the parameters of gender, race, heterosexuality, patriarchy, and other socially-constructed (or manipulated) concepts. Laurence Coleman, in discussing vocalist Dusty Springfield as a queer icon, says that embracing this understanding of queer “denotes a spectrum not only of identity and practice but also inquiry.” Accordingly, to be queer is to be a questioner and subverter of what Michael Warner has called “regimes of the normal,” and not just in matters to do with sexuality and sexual expression, but also in matters of gender, class, and race.

For many people, a definite appeal of Black Panther is that it boldly questions and subverts in entertaining ways, “regimes of the normal” as they relate to gender and race. (It almost did the same with sexuality, as Linda Lang documents here.)

I celebrate the subversion and transformation of any status quo that is oppressive and limiting, and without doubt Black Panther does this. Accordingly, I think it's fair to say that it is queer in the broadest and deepest sense of the word.

Black Panther is also queer in the more focused sense of sexuality. Though not as obvious or resolute as its focus on race and gender, a queer take on sexuality is nonetheless observable, simply and beautifully, in the film's celebration of the impressive physiques of the main Wakandan characters (both male and female); in Black Panther's body-hugging outfit (one that emphasizes the male body's “tools of attraction”); in the sensuous, cat-like way T'challa / Black Panther moves; and in the young King of Wakanda's journey and travails in becoming a hero.

This last observation is important as for many people who do not identify exclusively as heterosexual, the trials of comic book superheroes are often perceived to reflect their own struggle to be who they really are in a world that fears and misunderstands them.

“When I was a teenager,” one gay man told Gerard Jones, author of the book Men of Tomorrow: Geeks, Gangsters and the Birth of the Comic Book, “superheroes were obviously about being queer. Clark Kent shedding that hideous [business] suit and shooting into the sky in his tights? What else [could it be about]?”

I think a very similar thing can be said for T'challa, not only in his donning of his tight-fitting Black Panther suit, but in his efforts to move Wakanda out of the shadows so as to openly reveal and share the country's immense riches and unique gifts with the wider world, a move that is both liberating and risky, much like coming out as queer.

I conclude this tribute with images of Boseman in some of his most memorable movie roles and with three short videos, the first being Boseman's February 12, 2018 appearance on Good Morning America, and the second his March 4, 2018 appearance on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah. In both interviews, Boseman talks about the significance of Black Panther. The third video is Nicki Swift's look at Boseman's inspiring final social media posts.

Above: Boseman as Jackie Robinson in the 2013 film 42. Boseman died on the observance of Jackie Robinson Day, seven years after his portrayal of Robinson in 42. (NOTE: Jackie Robinson Day is April 15, but was observed this year on August 28 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.)

Above and below: Boseman as James Brown in the 2014 film Get on Up.

Above: In the 2016 film Gods of Eygpt, Boseman played Thoth. In responding to the backlash to the whitewashing in the film, Boseman said, “I'm thankful that it [happened], because actually, I agree with it. That's why I wanted to do it, so you would see someone of African descent playing Thoth, the father of mathematics and astronomy, and the god of wisdom.”

Above: Boseman as Thurgood Marshall in the 2017 film Marshall.

Above, right and below: Boseman in what will be remembered and celebrated as his most well-known and influential role, that of King T’Challa of Wakanda, aka Black Panther. Boseman brought this comic book character to vivid and believable life in four of Marvel Studio's popular superhero films: Captain America: Civil War (2016), Black Panther (2018), Avengers: Infinity War (2018), and Avengers: End Game (2019).

Above: Boseman in the 2019 film 21 Bridges.

Above: Boseman in the 2020 film Da 5 Bloods. Director Spike Lee, in choosing Boseman for the divine-like character of “Stormin” Norman, said, “This character is heroic; he's a superhero. Who do we cast? We cast Jackie Robinson, James Brown, Thurgood Marshall, and we cast T'Challa.”


Artwork: Adéyínká Adébáyọ̀

When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, “I used everything You gave me.”

– Chadwick Boseman

NEXT: Honoring An Icon

Related Off-site Links:
Black Panther Star Chadwick Boseman Dies of Cancer at 43 – Ryan Pearson (Associated Press, August 28, 2020).
Chadwick Boseman’s Final Tweet Is Twitter’s Most-Liked Post of All Time – Jordan Moreau (Variety, August 29, 2020).
Ryan Coogler Pens Powerful Tribute To Chadwick Boseman: “Chad Is An Ancestor Now”Shadow and Act (August 30, 2020).
Chadwick Boseman Didn't Just Play Icons. He Was One – Jake Coyle (Associated Press, August 29, 2020).
Chadwick Boseman's Career Highlights and Personal AchievementsABC News (August 29, 2020).
Chadwick Boseman's Most Beloved Moments Off-screen, From His Howard University Speech to “Black Jeopardy!” – Rasha Ali (USA Today, August 29, 2020).
How Chadwick Boseman Embodies Black Male Dignity – Reggie Ugwu (The New York Times, January 2, 2019).
A Look Back at Chadwick Boseman’s 2018 Sunday Sitdown Interview With Willie GeistSunday TODAY (August 30, 2020).
Black Panther Proves Black Movies Matter – John Paul King (Washington Blade, February 23, 2018).
Danai Gurira: Chadwick Boseman Was Exactly Like Black Panther – Christian Spencer (The Grio, August 30, 2020).
Chadwick Boseman in His Own Words – James Doubek (NPR News, August 30, 2020).
5 Things Chadwick Boseman's Silent Battle With Colon Cancer Reminds Us of Invisible Illnesses – Jessica Schmidt (Odyssy, August 30, 2020).

UPDATES: Remembering Chadwick Boseman: Ibram X. Kendi on the Legacy of the Black Panther Star, Cancer, and Anti-RacismDemocracy Now! (August 31, 2020).
Chadwick Boseman Was Ready For History Every Time – Evan Narcisse (GQ, September 1, 2020).
What Chadwick Boseman Taught Us About Black History – Taryn Finley (The Huffington Post, September 1, 2020).
Chadwick Boseman Helped Create This Iconic Black Panther Line – Jenna Amatulli (The Huffington Post, September 1, 2020).
How Chadwick Boseman’s Humility Made Him a Star – Matthew Jacobs (The Huffington Post, September 2, 2020).
Chadwick Boseman Turned Down Branding Opportunities That Would Taint Black Panther for Children – Kevin Childs (, September 2, 2020).
In Mock Funerals and “42” Jerseys, Kids Mourn Black Panther – Leanne Italie (Associated Press News, September 2, 2020).
Chadwick Boseman's Inner Circle on His Secret Cancer Battle: “He Was a Very Private Person” – Kirsten Chuba (Hollywood Reporter, September 2, 2020).
How Chadwick Boseman Helped Create the “Wakanda Forever” Salute – Bill Bradley (The Huffington Post, September 2, 2020).
Chadwick Boseman Was “In Hard-core Pain” While Filming Last Movie, Camps Say – Terry Shropshire (Rolling Out, September 3, 2020).
Finding Our Spiritual Vibranium: A Tribute to Chadwick Boseman – Adam R. Taylor (Sojourners, September 3, 2020).
Chadwick Boseman: The Lasting Impact of a Life Well-Lived – Tiffany Johnson (Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder, September 3, 2020).
Yes, Grieving Over a Celebrity’s Death Is 100% Valid – Sam Ledesma (Freedie MNL, September 3, 2020).
Chadwick Boseman Honored as Hometown Hero in Native South Carolina – Jonathan Landrum Jr. (Associated Press News, September 3, 2020).
Deanna Brown Thomas, Daughter of James Brown, Delivers Powerful Tribute to Honor Life of Chadwick Boseman – Madeleine Hackett (WYFF News 4, September 3, 2020).
He Makes You Think He’s Lost When He’s Won: On Chadwick Boseman – Soma Ghosh (The Quietus, September 4, 2020).
Family to Hold Private Service in Anderson, South Carolina to Celebrate Chadwick Boseman's Life – Joe Ripley (WYFF News 4, September 5, 2020).
Chadwick Boseman’s Funeral Service to Be Held in Hometown of Anderson, SCKIRO 7 News (September 6, 2020).
Marvel Fans Petitioning For Shuri to Take the Mantle in Black Panther 2 – David James (We Got This Covered, September 4, 2020).
Marvel Reportedly Wants to Pay Tribute to Chadwick Boseman in Captain Marvel 2 – Alex Crisp (We Got This Covered, September 6, 2020).
Disney and Marvel Studios Have Reportedly Decided on How to Proceed With Black Panther 2 – Scott Campbell (We Got This Covered, September 6, 2020).
Farewell to the King: Michael B Jordan and Black Panther Co-stars Join Chadwick Boseman’s Wife and Family at Malibu Memorial for Brave Actor – Patrick Knox (The U.S. Sun, September 7, 2020).
What Chadwick Boseman’s Death Means in a Year Marked by Grief – Joshua Barajas (PBS Newshour, September 9, 2020).
Evidence Mounts That Shuri Will Be the MCU’s New Black Panther – Scott Campbell (We Got This Covered, September 11, 2020).
Remembering the Joy, Strength and Inspiration of Chadwick Boseman – Moira Macdonald (Seattle Times, September 13, 2020).
This Is Who Fans Want to Replace Chadwick Boseman as the Black Panther – Chris Smith (BGR, September 13, 2020).
Chadwick Boseman Laid to Rest in South Carolina – Matt Joseph (We Got This Covered, September 14, 2020).
Chadwick Boseman’s Brother Reveals a Heartbreaking Look Into His Final DaysExtra (October 5, 2020).
Chadwick Boseman Remembered – Ruth E. Carter (The Guardian, December 12, 2020).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
The Important Cultural Moment That Is Black Panther
Celebrating Black Panther – Then and Now
“Avengers Assemble!”
Jason Johnson on Stan Lee's Revolutionary Legacy
Another First for Black Panther
“Something Special,” Indeed!
Queer Black Panther

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