From portraying the kicking-in-the-doors Thurgood Marshall to the fictional, yet powerful T’Challa from Wakanda, the beloved actor Chadwick Boseman grabbed international attention. News of the death of the actor, director and activist sent shockwaves around the world for several reasons. The recently married, South Carolinian, Howard University alum had built a solid reputation worldwide.
Passing away at 43 years old from colon cancer, Boseman achieved massive accomplishments in such a short period of time. Immediately upon the announcement of his death on Friday night, August 28, 2020, he was lauded for his quiet courage and dignity as throughout his undisclosed four-year cancer battle, he delivered noble performances of iconic figures in history, including Thurgood Marshall, James Brown, Jackie Robinson, and of course the fictional and yet globally influential and inspirational T’Challa from Wakanda in “Black Panther.”
Kevin Young, director of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, praised the actor. Boseman, he said, “had a long connection to the Schomburg Center based in Harlem, teaching acting to students in our Junior Scholars program back in 2008. At the height of his success with ‘Black Panther,’ after portraying Thurgood Marshall, James Brown, and Jackie Robinson, Boseman took time to remember the program, discussing the Schomburg Center’s importance to Black culture and film in several interviews, and posting a video wearing a t-shirt featuring the Center. We are proud that he was a part of the extended Schomburg Center and New York Public Library family.”
Young people the world over puffed out their chests quoting any of the big characters he played. The 2018 release of the “Black Panther” movie created a groundswell of pride and deep conversation about Black history, contribution and influence. Premieres all over the world became community and media events, as folks, some of whom had never really considered Africa as a viable option, now donned especially made outfits, grabbed the family for the outing, pushed to learn about languages and culture from the continent. It was because of how Boseman brought T’Challa to life. That reality is forever. Recognition and respect of the big Boseman influence, from real life trailblazers to comic book storytelling, is why the world is feeling his death the way it is.
The Boseman effect has been tremendous. It continues now in his death with a targeted focus on Black people (men in particular) and colon cancer. He spent years, and certainly the last few months, selflessly helping young cancer patients without revealing his own condition.
With the American Cancer Society saying that there is a rise in diagnosis of colorectal cancer cases for the under 50s, they have recommended that regular screening of colon and rectal cancer should begin at 45 years old. Boseman was 43. There are calls now asking that age to be reduced.
Everywhere folk are now talking about lifestyle and dietary awareness—although he had been the epitome of great health—and trending are conversations about signs and symptoms to look out for.
Chadwick Boseman has been a transformative figure. His acting inspired and perhaps changed lives, and his transition may just lead to measures that will save lives.