BY ALEXIA MCKAY
“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
When I heard about the death of Chadwick Boseman, the night of Aug. 28, I was at a friend’s house Friday night watching a movie.
“Wow! Chadwick Boseman is dead,” he shouted when he got the text on his phone.
“What? No!” My first reaction was shock, denial, then disbelief. Every time I hear about the sudden death of a famous person I admire, I always go through those motions.
It took me hours to fully accept the passing of Michael Jackson after it was confirmed. And even the next day after his death, I woke up wanting it to be a dream.
With life comes death and it’s an inevitable passage that we all must cross one day. But Chadwick’s passing hit me unexpectedly different and personal. That Friday night, I actually sobbed in the shower. Silent tears rolled down my face and onto my pillow before drifting off to sleep.
For Boseman, I can sincerely say I am experiencing grief. And I never even met the 43-year-old Howard alum, which according to multiple tributes and social media statuses from people who knew him personally, he was a humble, generous, giving, caring, incredibly strong and multitalented young Black man.
Yet I mourn him as if he was a member of my own family. As if I was the one of those individuals standing around him as he took his last breath, surrounded by those who loved and cared for him the most.
His greatest battle
Why? Why do we grieve people we never met?
I believe it’s the silent battle. As King T’Challa, he defended Wakanda and fought in what’s arguably the most epic battle scene of Marvel Comics in 2019’s “Avengers: Endgame.” All while fighting for his life, behind closed doors, in the greatest battle of them all- cancer.
Another trigger that made his passing that more shocking to me, to us. The cancerous foe that ultimately took his life. Boseman was diagnosed with stage 3 colon cancer in 2016.
According to the American Cancer Society, colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer in men and numbers have been rising among adults between the ages of 20 and 39.
Black men are more likely to be diagnosed with an advanced stage of the disease and less than 10% survive five or more years after a diagnosis.
Yet Boseman never lived his life based on statistics. Instead, he just lived.
Between the time he was diagnosed and the time he left us, he gave us 10 amazing movies, including 2016’s “Captain America’s Civil War;” the “Avengers” saga; 2020’s “21 Bridges;” and the soon to be released, “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.”
He was a family man, ready to start a new chapter in his life with his wife, singer Taylor Simone Ledward. The two had married shortly before he passed.
Gave us representation
In a time where representation matters more than ever for African Americans, Boseman gave life to some of our greatest icons.
The impact of bringing “Black Panther” to life is enough said about his representation. It’s the role that his family says was the honor of his life to portray. The Black Marvel superhero has become a beacon of Black empowerment and hope for not only Black children but Black adults as well.
Who could forget the now-viral 2018 clip from the “The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon.”
In it, fans stood in front of his poster from the film and explained what the movie meant to them and the Black community in general, all while Boseman stood behind the curtain listening. He surprised each fan and gave them a hug.
Thanks to him, greeting our circle Wakandan style, arms crossed and praising the ancestors has become common practice.
He dutifully owned James Brown in 2014’s “Get on Up.” Arguably, no one could have played the “Godfather of Soul” better. He honored the first African American Supreme Court Justice- Thurgood Marshall, in 2017’s “Marshall.”
He gave us reassured Black pride in 2013’s “42” as Jackie Robinson. Boseman’s death ironically fell on the same day Major League Baseball celebrated the Brooklyn Dodgers star, with every player wearing Robinson’s No. 42.
He paid tribute to the Black soldiers who served their country during the Vietnam War in the 2020 action flick, “Da 5 Bloods.” And although small, but devastatingly overlooked and underrated, he paid due diligence to our ancient African heritage as Thoth, the Egyptian god of wisdom in 2016’s “Gods of Egypt.”
Gave us hope
In the midst of his battle with colon cancer, he continued to inspire others. He visited children with cancer amid his own fight.
He brought toys to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. The staff tweeted that he brought “joy, courage and inspiration.”
As a graduate of a historically Black college and university, he exhibited the excellence of the HBCU legacy.
He encouraged fellow HBCU graduates to explore, fulfill their fullest potential and find their purpose in life.
“Purpose crosses disciplines,” he told the graduating 2018 Howard class as their commencement speaker.
“Purpose is an essential element of you. It is the reason you are on the planet at this particular time in history. Your very existence is wrapped up in the things you are here to fulfill.”
Although his tenure was cut short, his legacy is solidified. Boseman’s life taught us that the impact that we make in this world is not dictated by the time we have on this earth, but what we choose to do with that time we are destined to have.
Reaffirmed our purpose
Whatever hardships we may go through in our lives, whether its sickness, financial or social, never stop seeking the spirit of perseverance. Never stop finding the possible out of the impossible.
Boseman achieved the possible and beyond, all while undergoing chemotherapy and countless surgeries. Also, while dealing with the ridicule of the weight loss and the burden of uncertainty and fear of the unknown.
We all have our niches and pre-destined purposes to contribute to this world. And although I grieve his loss, I’m grateful for the artistic gift we had in this young Black king.
I hope his life encourages you to live yours to the fullest with all the gratefulness, hope and possibility that makes living so beautiful.
Alexia McKay is an editorial assistant for the Florida Courier as well as the publisher and editor-in-chief of RoyalTee Magazine, a quarterly publication for millennial, minority entrepreneurs and influencers. McKay is a graduate of Florida A&M University. Find more of her content at royalteemagazine.com.