BY KAREN JOHNSON OLYMPIAN BOARD OF CONTRIBUTORS, OCTOBER 16, 2020
Internationally acclaimed actor Chadwick Aaron Boseman mattered. Boseman studied directing at Howard University, a historically Black university, landed his first major role as a series regular on “Persons Unknown” (2010), gave a breakthrough performance as baseball player Jackie Robinson in the biographical film “42” (2013), starred as singer James Brown in “Get On Up” (2014), and as Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall in “Marshall” (2017).
Boseman also played King T’Challa, a superhero and leader of Wakanda, in the film “Black Panther” — which was praised as a cultural milestone for having a primarily Black cast. For many Black children — and their older relatives — King T’Challa was the first big-screen superhero they’d ever seen that looked like them.
I invite you to look through my eyes and see what I see in the life of Chadwick Boseman, the Black Panther.
PUSH PAST THE PAIN TO PURSUE PURPOSE
Unbeknownst to the public, Boseman was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2016 and kept his condition private, continuing to act while receiving surgeries and chemotherapy treatment. Following a four-year battle, he died in August from complications related to the illness.
In his words: “The struggles along the way are only meant to shape you for your purpose.”
How are the struggles you are currently experiencing shaping you for your purpose?
IGNORE THE HATERSOn April 15 — the day in 1947 when No. 42 on the Brooklyn Dodgers broke baseball’s color barrier — Boseman posted a video on Instagram saying: “I am hearing stories of desperation from people all over the country, and we know our communities are suffering the most and urgently need help. Celebrating #JackieRobinsonDay with the launch of Thomas Tull’s #Operation42, a donation of $4.2 million in personal protective equipment (PPE) to hospitals that service the African American [c]ommunities who have been hit the hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Thank you, Jackie, for refusing to accept the world as it is, for showing us that we can make a difference.”
Because Boseman, a Black man, looked dramatically thinner in the video he posted on Instagram that day, he was accused by some of using illicit drugs and was slammed on social media.
He knew that he was in his final months of life and not using illicit drugs, unless chemo is now illicit.
We now know he was in his final months on Earth, undergoing surgery and chemotherapy.
Note to self: Keep doing good. Keep making a difference. Ignore the haters.
LEAVE A LEGACY
Chadwick Aaron Boseman left a powerful legacy and movies to inspire generations yet unborn. If the movie “Black Panther” causes Black children to understand their heritage, become more confident in pursuing a STEM career, or a little more determined to actualize their innate leadership abilities, then I think that his living was not in vain.
His final film, “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” is scheduled to be released posthumously on Dec. 18 by Netflix.
What legacy are you leaving?
Dr. Karen A. Johnson (Dr. J) (she/her/hers) is an authentic, servant leader, and a member of The Olympian’s 2020 Board of Contributors. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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