One of the most influential African-American actors of our time, Chadwick Boseman, died from colon cancer on August 28th, 2020. The leading roles that he played as inspirational Black figures brought them to the light on the big screen in a way that taught folks who may not read a lot about history why they were so important to society.
Chad Boseman was born in my home state of South Carolina, in the city of Anderson. His dad was an agricultural upholsterer, his mom was a nurse, and he first got interested in theater when he attended TL Hanna High School.
Chadwick Boseman’s Impact on African-American Culture
In the movie 42, released in April of 2013, he played legendary African-American Major League Baseball Player Jackie Robinson, who broke the leagues color barrier in 1947. In fact, the day that Boseman died was the same day the league honored Jackie Robinson. In the film Get On Up, which hit theaters the summer of 2014, he played an amazing role as the Godfather of Soul, James Brown.
In October of 2017, a movie named Marshall was released where Boseman played the first African-American Justice of the Supreme Court, Thurgood Marshall. Still, most will likely remember him from his groundbreaking role as King T’Challa in Black Panther, released in February of 2018. This role was a historical moment for Black actors and filmmakers.
Chadwick Boseman’s Secret Fight With Colon Cancer
Once, on Sirius XM Radio, Boseman got emotional talking about two kids who had cancer. He was emotional because of how they felt about the movie that he had coming out, Black Panther.
But, now, in retrospect when we look back at it, now that we know that he himself was actually fighting his own silent battle with colon cancer at the time, we realize that those tears he shed at the microphone that day were personal as well as empathetic for those two kids. His words were:
“There are two little kids, Ian and Taylor, who recently passed from cancer. Throughout our filming, I was communicating with them knowing that they were both terminal. And, what they said to me, and what their parents said is they were just trying to hold on until this movie comes. To a certain degree, you hear them say that and you’re like, whew! Wow. You’re like ‘I gotta get up and go to the gym, I gotta get up and go to work, I gotta learn these lines, I gotta work on this action…’ Seeing how devoted my castmates are, and that that will be something meaningful to them. To a certain degree, it’s a humbling experience because you’re like ‘This can’t mean that much to them…’, ya know? But seeing how the world has taken us on, seeing how the movement has taken on a life of its own, I realize that they anticipated something great. And I think back now to when I was a kid, waiting for Christmas to come, waiting for a birthday to come, waiting for a toy that I was going to get a chance to experience, or a video game…I did live life waiting for those moments. So, what put me back in the mind of being a kid….just to experience those two little boys’ anticipation of this movie….and when I found out that they…(pauses, sheds tears)…yeah. It means a lot.”
Chadwick Boseman’s influence from television to the big screen will always be felt, and he’ll be forever missed. May he rest in peace.
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