The news cycles are getting shorter and shorter these days. A significant event that took place a couple of weeks ago quickly slips from our grasp and consciousness. But there is one event that remains in my awareness. It is the passing of Chadwick Boseman. Two weeks ago, Chadwick, most popularly known for his portrayal of action hero T'Challa in the movie Black Panther, made his transition at 43. Young Marvel comic fans and followers of Chadwick across the globe paid their respects to his life with Wakanda salutes and mock funerals attended by young fans surrounded by their action figures.
I first became aware of this extraordinary soul when he played the role of Jackie Robinson in the movie 42. Boseman portrayed the travails of Robinson’s journey as he broke the color line to become the first African-American to play Major League baseball. I became more familiar with Mr. Boseman when I heard his commencement address at my son’s college, Howard University. There are so many admirable things about this bright light that can be said by those who knew him far better than I. But there are a couple of things about Boseman that stand out for me.
According to the director of the movie 42, there was an inner stillness and resolve Boseman exuded when he auditioned for the part. The director believed that quality was necessary for the character to accurately demonstrate the essence of Jackie Robinson - the inner resolve to face the slings and arrows thrown his way during this once-in-a-lifetime experience. He was able to portray to the viewers that the journey Robinson embarked on was not just about one man, but a cause bigger than himself.
A related memory about Chadwick is a portion of his commencement to the graduates at Howard University. Boseman conveyed, among other things, the importance of having a purpose in life. In his speech, he noted that having meaning is part of who we are and why we are on the planet at this particular time in history. Moreover, Chadwick pointed out that when we face struggles in life, we can choose to view them as a means to prepare us for our purpose. When the Universe has something for you, it does not matter what or who stands against you; nothing can defeat a God-given purpose. Wise words, indeed.
Finally, a lesson about Chadwick Boseman and his death doesn't come from him, but from one of his fellow actors. It relates to the peril of making assumptions. The fellow actor is Clarke Peters, who played alongside Chadwick in the movie, Da 5 Bloods. This was after Chadwick became world-renowned for his role in The Black Panther. Peters was excited to work with Chadwick. However, when he was asked by his wife what Boseman was like, Clarke said he thought he was a spoiled Hollywood actor. He based that on what he saw take place while Chadwick was on the set. A Chinese practitioner massaged his back during breaks, and another person rubbed his feet, and throughout the day, his girlfriend held his hand. He thought that the people around him overly fawned over Chadwick, and his Black Panther fame had gone to his head.
What Peters didn't know (very few did) was that three years earlier Boseman had received a colon cancer diagnosis. The people around him were looking after him and doing their best to take care of him. Throughout the filming of the movie and other projects Chadwick worked on after his diagnosis, he never complained, was in the moment every minute, and he put on stellar performances. Peters regretted he had those thoughts based on false assumptions. It is a reminder of the perils of making assumptions based only on what we see or hear.
As Jesus the Christ notes, "Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment." Chadwick Boseman played more than a Marvel comic book action hero in a movie; he was a model for all people, no matter their age. He served his purpose. And while humanity lost a wonderful actor, a person of impeccable integrity, and a sweet soul, we gained an energy of inspiration for people everywhere. Chadwick Boseman fulfilled his purpose. He played his hero role. But more importantly, he helped activate the hero in everyone who physically or virtually crossed his path.
Godspeed Chadwick Boseman. Wakanda Forever!
Peace and Blessings,