When he took up the mantle of T’Challa, The Black Panther, he gave us one of the first Black superhero movies. Anyone who interacts with kids knows how important representation can be. That was on full display while Black Panther was in theatres:
- Inner-city schools taking field trips to see the movie.
- Folks showing up in traditional African garb.
- People who had never shown any interest in superhero movies becoming hardcore members of the Marvel Universe fandom.
The movie ended up grossing well over a billion dollars. It was the movie that taught Hollywood that representation isn’t just the right thing to do … but that it could also be profitable.
Although we are not going to get a Black Panther trilogy with Chadwick Boseman, we gained appreciation for the man himself because last night we learned that for the last four years he has been giving us these memorable performances while battling stage III colon cancer. In between chemotherapy treatments Boseman was as active as ever. A feat that could be described as superhuman in and of itself. Many people going through the treatment that he was said to have undergone understandably take time off or are, at minimum, less active than they were before. However, Boseman seem to understand that the roles he portrayed were not of ordinary importance.
In a twist of irony, Major League Baseball actually celebrated Jackie Robinson day yesterday, the same day that Boseman passed away. It is only fitting that as we honor the real-life superhero that he portrayed on screen that we also honor the man behind the portrayal as well. Because the hero we lost yesterday wasn’t The Black Panther; it was Chadwick Boseman.