By Nehru Odeh
Chadwick Boseman, the American actor who played Black icons Jackie Robinson and James Brown before finding fame as the regal Black Panther, has died of colon cancer. Boseman who had been battling the disease for four years died at his home in Los Angeles with his wife and family by his side. He was 43
Boseman was truly the boss man. According to the statement released by his family, he was diagnosed with colon cancer four years ago.
But the intriguing thing about this actor who was so loved by fans across the globe is that he had been living with cancer, undergoing several chemotherapy and surgeries and still acting to bring joys to families. Yet he bore his pains stoically and never spoke about his diagnosis.
“A true fighter, Chadwick persevered through it all, and brought you many of the films you have come to love so much,” his family said. “From Marshall to Da 5 Bloods, August Wilson’s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom and several more – all were filmed during and between countless surgeries and chemotherapy. It was the honor of his career to bring King T’Challa to life in Black Panther.”
-Read the story of Black Panther and its significance to all Blacks here
Another intriguing thing about his death is that he died on a day that Major League Baseball was celebrating Jackie Robinson day. “His transcendent performance in ‘42’ will stand the test of time and serve as a powerful vehicle to tell Jackie’s story to audiences for generations to come,” the league wrote in a tweet.
Since news of his death broke, social media has been buzzing with tributes for him: “This is a crushing blow” actor and director Jordan Peele said on Twitter, one of many expressing shock as the news spread across social media.
“This broke me,” said actor and writer Issa Rae.
Captain America actor Chris Evans called Boseman “a true original. He was a deeply committed and constantly curious artist. He had so much amazing work still left to create.”
Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden tweeted that Boseman “inspired generations and showed them they can be anything they want — even super heroes.”
Born in South Carolina, Boseman graduated from Howard University and had small roles in television before his first star turn in 2013. His striking portrayal of the stoic baseball star Robinson opposite Harrison Ford in 2013′s “42” drew attention in Hollywood and made him a star.A year later, he wowed audiences as Brown in the biopic “Get On Up.
His T’Challa character was first introduced to the blockbuster Marvel movies in 2016′s “Captain America: Civil War,” and his “Wakanda Forever” salute reverberated around the world after the release of “Black Panther” two years ago.
“I don’t think the world was ready for a ‘Black Panther’ movie before this moment. Socially and politically, it wasn’t ready for it,” he told AP at the time.
Even at the outset of his Hollywood career, Boseman was clear-eyed about — and even skeptical of — the industry in which he would become an international star.
“You don’t have the same exact experience as a Black actor as you do as a white actor. You don’t have the same opportunities. That’s evident and true,” he told AP while promoting “42.” “The best way to put it is: How often do you see a movie about a black hero who has a love story … he has a spirituality. He has an intellect. It’s weird to say it, but it doesn’t happen that often.”
In addition to Robinson and Brown, Boseman portrayed the future U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall in 2017′s “Marshall.” He humanized the larger-than-life historical figures with the same quiet dignity — interrupted by flashes of sparkling wit — that he would later bring to T’Challa. . However, it was his role as T’Challa, the king of Marvel’s mythical African land of Wakanda, that gave him international recognition.
He took on his first producing job in last year’s action thriller “21 Bridges,” in which he also starred, and was last seen on-screen in Spike Lee’s film “Da 5 Bloods” as the leader of a group of Black soldiers in the Vietnam War.
Boseman completed one last performance, in an adaptation of August Wilson’s “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.” The Netflix film, which reunited Boseman with his “Get On Up” co-star, Viola Davis, finished shooting last summer.
It took some time for Boseman’s moment to come. He first got into theater, acting and writing plays as an undergrad at Howard. He visited Africa for the first time during college with director and theater professor Mike Malone, working in Ghana to preserve and celebrate rituals with performances on a proscenium stage. He later called the trip “one of the most significant learning experiences of my life.”
Boseman had roles on TV shows like ABC Family’s “Lincoln Heights” and NBC’s “Persons Unknown,” but before “42” he had only acted in one film, 2008’s football drama “The Express.” Boseman attracted notice, but missed out on big parts.
“2011 was a rough year,” he said. “I was up for everything that was happening that year, really good roles. I would get down to the end and then it would go to someone else.”
Asked about his own childhood heroes and icons, Boseman cited Black political leaders and musicians: Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr., Bob Marley, Public Enemy, A Tribe Called Quest and Prince. Deeply private and often guarded in his public appearances and interviews, he made clear that he understood the significance of his work and its impact on the broader culture.
At the 2019 Screen Actors Guild Award, “Black Panther” won best ensemble, electrifying the room. Before an auditorium full of actors, Chadwick Boseman stepped to the microphone. He quoted Nina Simone: “To be young, gifted and black,” and put the moment in context.
“We know what it’s like to be told there isn’t a screen for you to be featured on, a stage for you to be featured on. … We know what’s like to be beneath and not above. And that is what we went to work with every day,
“We knew that we could create a world that exemplified a world we wanted to see. We knew that we had something to give,” Boseman said