Boseman’s work celebrated the beauty of Blackness

Chadwick Aaron Boseman was originally a South Carolina boy. His ancestors were Krio people from Sierra Leone, Yoruba people from Nigeria and Limba people from Sierra Leone who were brought to the U.S. in the belly of slave ships to be forced into chattel slavery for centuries.

Growing up in the deep South, Black struggle was at his doorstep and lingered all around him. Black history for Boseman was more than pages and folklore, but rather the story of his family and friends. It was the legacy of his parents. It was his biography.

Boseman attended a renowned Historically Black College, Howard University, where he plunged deep into his artistry. He rose to international acclaim with his compelling performance of the baseball legend Jackie Robinson, in the biopic “42.”

Boseman’s Robinson was gifted, tough, humble romantic, and profound. He displayed a version of Black masculinity that was filled with dignity, grace and nuance. We were doubly blessed with the gift of two brilliant Black heroes, Boseman and Robinson, at a time when the Black community was devastated by the death of Trayvon Martin.

A year later, Boseman delivered to us another creative soul, starring as James Brown in the 2014 film, “Get on Up.” Two things became clear. One, a genius was playing a genius. Two, Boseman was acting like he was running out of time.

Once again, he dazzled audiences with his mastery of the craft and conducted himself and the character he portrayed with such excellence that the masses of Black people could say it loud, “I’m Black and I’m proud.”

A few years later, he played the role of the civil rights giant Thurgood Marshall. Boseman’s integrity and understanding of his Blackness was reflected in his body of work. He did not compromise. All of his portrayals combated stereotypes and norm-deficit characterizations. These performances shattered the superficial and toxic understanding of Black masculinity.

No role was more successful in displaying Black excellence and magic as his portrayal of the Marvel Universe superhero King T’Challa, “The Black Panther.” The film, which achieved international acclaim, was an unprecedented display of Black excellence in a major Hollywood motion picture.

Boseman led a cast of some of the greatest Black actors in the world. The film felt as grand, rich and magnificent as the continent of Africa herself. It changed how Blackness was seen, interpreted and felt around the world.

Boseman’s portrayal of King T’Challa captured the dream of Black manhood that many of us inspire to be: romantic, tenacious, virtuous, wise, humble and surrounded by powerful women that inspire, advise and support us to be the very best versions of ourselves. Boseman’s legacy is defined by an incredible body of work that displayed and celebrated the beauty of Blackness on the world stage.

Boseman’s depth as an actor embodied the nuance and depth of the Black experience. There was wisdom, beauty and profoundness in his eyes that made him an ideal character to play some of the most dynamic Black figures in history.

In real life, his heroism towered over King T’challa as he quietly battled with cancer yet continued to work through all of it. The world lost a brilliant actor, but our community lost a brother. We find solace in knowing that Boseman continues to watch over us alongside the others on the ancestral plane. ​

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