Young, Gifted and Black
Chadwick Boseman featured in Elle Magazine, 2018. Photo by ART STREIBER + AUGUST IMAGE
A few days ago I started writing a post about hurricanes. Unfortunately, here in Texas, hurricane season always brings trepidation. The post was going to contrast how we were preparing for Hurricane Laura on the 3-year anniversary of Hurricane Harvey. I was going to write about how traumatic our Harvey experience was – from making a safe room in my bedroom closet for my kids in case of a tornado to getting a call from my panicked mother who was standing in her apartment in water up to her thigh. I was going to relate it to life presenting situations as anything from a tropical disturbance to a hurricane. But I didn’t finish it. I couldn’t finish it. The death of Chadwick Boseman stopped me in my tracks.
Boseman wasn’t just a great actor. He wasn’t just a Howard University grad or just an advocate for young cancer patients (while unknown to the world he was suffering with a similar fate). By others’ accounts, he was humble, authentic and real. On screen, he portrayed Thurgood Marshall, Jackie Robinson, James Brown, and King T’Challa. A man of great talents and conviction playing other great men of talents and convictions. He inspired us, gave us hope, and showed us that lives like his were possible. He was the young, gifted, and black that Nina Simone sings about. However, it was still bigger than that.
While the movie, Black Panther, did everything “for the culture”, the world recognizes that it was bigger than that. Millions of people were able to see a representation of Africa that has never been displayed. A black superhero could not only exist, but he could use his brains and his brawn and had swagger while doing it all. One of my friends wrote, “The cultural impact Black Panther will have on generations of Black people cannot be overstated.” But even still, it was bigger than that.
His death hits the black community hard, and people in my generation even harder. My sister made a great point by saying, “I figured out why deaths like Kobe and Chad are so hard, because they are our age, and it makes us challenge our own health and morality. If a “superhero” can die of cancer, where does that place us?” The answer is simple: in line.
The ultimate lesson that Boseman teaches us is this: honoring your purpose and working with passion is your life’s goal. Whatever is going on behind the scenes in your life shouldn’t change your ability to deliver your gift to the world and impact people, even while suffering. And, ALWAYS speak truth to power, especially your truth.
I can count on one hand the number of celebrities whose deaths have brought me to tears. Unfortunately, two of them have happened this year. And while again in 2020, Black people have experienced the heart-stopping sucker punch of losing another icon, we must remember that it is still bigger than that.