Chadwick Boseman, actor and director, died aged 43 this week. He was diagnosed with colon cancer four years ago. Born in South Carolina, USA he graduated from Howard University before entering a career in the arts and media, originally focussing on film directing. Later though it was in acting that he found his purpose. He played many iconic roles including Jackie Robinson the baseball star in the 2013 film 42. He played singing legend James Brown in Get on Up. But it was his portrayal of The Black Panther in the Marvel film of the same name that he will be most remembered for. Since the announcement of his death there has been a massive outpouring online for him and his family and comments about how his performances affected people.
A true fighter indeed as he completed not one but 6 films under the diagnosis of colon cancer. In this past month there has been very little to cause us to feel hope. Especially so when we look at America with its violence against black Americans. A young man after stopping a fight in his own neighbourhood gets shot in the back several times by a police officer. The video of it goes viral and protests ensue at the injustice and inhumanity of this act. Only later are the flames fanned higher by the shooting of two protesters by a young white supremacist in full view of the authorities. Not much hope.
But actors and film directors deal with hope all of the time. It is their purpose to give their audiences hope. I went to see the film The Black Panther with some African friends and as it was a Marvel ‘super hero’ film I was expecting some criticism about ‘Hollywoods’ portrayal of Wakanda, a fictional African country hidden away in the great continent of Africa with its technology far in advance of any other country on the planet. I was wrong my companions were the same as myself , we became completely absorbed by the film and the journey the directors and actors led us into. They identified with the positive role models of not only the characters, the men,the women but the society that was portrayed was one every African could aspire to, in fact every citizen of the world could aspire to. For many people all over the world and in America where Chadwick Boseman grew up this film gave children, and young adults a glimpse about how things could be if only we had hope.
This is not meant to be a film review but I cannot talk about Chadwick Boseman without talking about his most iconic movie. It is one that embodies hope and in a week without much hope the movie will last forever and give many more people without hope the opportunity to imagine a better place.
I want to finish by sharing what Chadwick Boseman said when he was given an Hononary doctorate at his old University. On the same day incidentally that the late Dr Martin Luther King was given his. The introduction by the person officiating is outstanding in itself but the acceptance speech by Chadwick embodies such character , such power and intelligence, such commitment. And is only now that we know that he was battling cancer that makes this speech even more meaningful and remarkable. In it he talks about finding purpose and this is just what a group of graduates need to hear.
Rest in power Chadwick Boseman.
Thank you for entertaining us and for bringing us hope now and for the future.