Honoring The King: The BNP Family’s Tribute Piece Celebrating Chadwick Boseman

We come bringing our flowers for the King.

We mourn. We Grieve, We Celebrate. 

Chadwick Boseman’s recent passing shocked fans the world over–in a year where we have been given all the L’s possible–from COVID-19 to white supremacy and police brutality rearing their ugly heads– it is hard to smile as this one hurts. A lot. The BNP family wanted to share some of our favorite memories through the work and legacy of one very special man who captured our hearts, commanded the attention of audiences everywhere, lastly, who walked in life with a quiet, air of dignity.

We bring our flowers for a Black hero who portrayed so many of our Black heroes, both fictional and real on the big screen.

We bring our flowers for Chadwick.

AISHA  

The T’Challa of our time was a true hero, the one who was given everything before he was even ready and stepped to the task like a true king.

He knew Bast had a plan and did not shy away. His vengeance fueled the beginning of his rise and Chadwick showed this with more grace than we could have even known to ask for. How someone make vengeance look like the electric slide? And you can’t help but jump in. He walked through Civil War like the rightful judge, jury, and executioner and you didn’t stop to ask no questions. Instead, you said – where is the lie?

Chadwick, as many of his colleagues and loved ones have been posting, just made everything look so cool. His real-life morals made it easy to be king. He operated with a poise worthy of followers. Because his people knew he had their whole selves and livelihood in mind, and I truly believe that is how Chadwick carried himself at all times. The best part of his Black Panther was his fallibility. You knew from Chadwick’s stance and his walk that he was meant to be king. When he found the atrocities of his elders we got to watch him carry that weight with honesty and truth.

The way he played in the duality of Killmonger as his kin and the responsibility he had for Wakanda jumped from the screen and kicked viewers in the chest. So close to home and so real. We needed an unexpected king, someone, who could stretch the role and show us royalty, but for the people. Someone who could show empathy through a pursed lip, through the fire of revenge but with the ability to control it in expert fashion. T’Challa is a fictional character with so much meaning and so much potential to birth real-life heroes. Perhaps, we never really knew the full caliber of hero Chadwick was – but we all felt it.   

Perhaps, we never really knew the full caliber of hero Chadwick was – but we all felt it.

Chadwick’s dedication to a role, whether it be inspirations from our history like James Brown to inspirations that fuel our imagination creativity and pride, he played it with truth from his inner being. There is a reason kids he visited felt so much joy as he walked in, just himself, he didn’t have to wear the costume, he wore it from the inside out. He knew the importance of the figure he took on and knowing his time may be limited he took on this role for himself and for the world and it showed in the strength and pride he gave us all and the warm energy and beauty he radiated from within. His Black Panther is our King – always.

Every Black Panther to follow will remember and honor the path he has laid and salute – Wakanda Forever.  


(Image Courtesy of NY Times)


DJ

When I was in the 3rd grade my class had no white people in it. This was a first for me, and a last until I became a teacher myself. Throughout that year, a lot of things happened: I was first identified for my county’s gifted students program and I had the first experience with racism I can remember, with school events not being communicated to my class. Once, there was a science fair that the Montessori half (the white half, just being real) was invited to months in advance. Our class was told about it and expected to enter. One day before the event. 

We won.  We never received our prize. 

Black kids learn early the world is against us. We have to work twice as hard for half as much. We call ourselves queens and kings because who else will?

We finally found a kingdom to call ours, all of ours, with the Black Panther. Blade meets Spider-Man meets Batman. And honestly, Chadwick Boseman was the same. He was poise and badassery and a little awkwardness all in one. He brought gravitas to the Black superhero and more important, he was real. 

He brought gravitas to the Black superhero and more important, he was real.

We’ve all had a crush that left us completely on the back foot. Many of us have that little sibling that is constantly messing with us or else giving hella back sass. We all have that one cousin. By spotlighting the real Black experience through fantastical, magical Blackness, the character and the film both give us a world we can grow up to want no matter how old we are. 

I am a father now. I want the same things for my kids that a lot of parents do. That includes a classroom where we know about the science fair while there’s still a chance to compete. That includes a world where we don’t fear the police. That includes a world with superheroes. 

Chadwick Boseman’s death hit me like it would a friend and mentor. I know this because it hit the same as the death of a mentor which I had learned of just hours later. I’m still mourning. But my nephew has a hero forever. 

Long live the king.  


FRANTZ

To be a Black and in the spotlight has a specific weight and heft to it.

It is one directly connected to the history of Black performance in America. It’s a kind of knowing; that what you do means something, just in being. In existence. The way Paul Robeson, Ruby Dee, Dorothy Dandridge, and Harry Belafonte brought their identity to their work in front of and behind the camera. In their lives away from the set. To leave the world a little better than you found it.

This is the ethic Chadwick Boseman came through with. His portrayal of T’Challa did for the Black collective consciousness the full, imaginative labor of designing a vision of our freedom. Across time. I am called forth to carry that imagination forward the way he did: using each and every one of my talents across medium and genre to envision a world where Black people are free. The way Chadwick did, the way Nina Simone surmised, without fear. I am so hurt by his passing. Chadwick moved me. In a time where I was entirely jaded by…Everything.


Coming To America x Black Panther mashup art by @kevrayval

Nothing shook me more than watching his T’Challa enter the Djalia to speak with his father. The way I wish I could speak to my father. I have only cried during four movies, The Color Purple, Amistad, the Katrina part of Benjamin Button, and Black Panther.

Had me like a child sobbing in the dark of the theater. That year, I cosplayed as Kill’Challa at New York Comic-Con. I took every youth group I had to see the movie. I visited my mother in Mississippi to watch it with her. We cried together, knowing my mother grew up in an America her mother couldn’t vote in. And we watched the future.

That’s what Chadwick Boseman brought to the table – the Black future.

He did that with the full weight of Sankofa, the Ghanaian concept of “go back and get it”. To look backward in order to better make forward movements. He embodied the heroes of our very real past in preparation for portraying our very possible future. Chadwick Boseman, presenté. Axé.


JOSEPH 

I don’t need to talk about how important Black Panther was as a representative medium. We know this already. We know how great Chadwick Boseman was as an actor, we know how important Black Panther was For the Culture

 I want to briefly talk about how it felt to lose a piece of that. We don’t often get top billing, and to see US get top billing in a well-funded, well-marketed, blockbuster was amazing. Not just our Black bodies, but our Black directors, Black set designers, Black creatives, in general, got top billing; and then see the movie not just achieve, but exceed expectations was a point of pride. I remember going to Spain last year and seeing a hip-hop cypher pop off in the middle of a block party in Barcelona. As a Black man, I smiled and silently said, “You’re welcome.” because that was us, that was ALLLL US.

That’s our culture transported overseas, you’re welcome for that. That’s how I felt about Black Panther. “You’re welcome world.”, this is what we have to offer, this is what we can do when we are unleashed and unchained by the white gaze or by the boxes people think Black actors, directors, and creatives should be in.

I remember seeing Infinity War, and how excited I was to see ‘my mans and them’ do work. I felt like I was getting to see a cousin get his well-deserved break. And I remember how pissed I was when T’Challa got “dusted”. I felt cheated, I felt robbed, I cursed at the screen, I was silent on the ride home.

I was angry and upset and I remember in a fit of pique yelling out, “BASTARDS COULDNT JUST LET US HAVE TWO IN A ROW, HUH?!? JUST GONNA UP AND TAKE HIM, WE JUST FOUND HIM, JUST GOT HIM!” I remember dragging my wife to see it a week after, and she had the same reaction. It was the pain of loss. And I feel that same emotion now. Not just for T’Challa, but for Chadwick as a: person, actor, Black, creative artist. I want to yell up to God, WE JUST GOT HIM!

And I know that’s not totally accurate. Chadwick’s IMDB page will tell you that he’s been around for a while. But I was looking forward to growing old with whatever characters he decided to bring to life next. I was looking forward to seeing him Morgan Freeman his way through cinema. I felt like the world lost a great mind, a great actor, and a great voice.

Someone once told me that grief is the price we pay for loving someone deeply.

I feel like Black people lost a cousin, who had been putting in work and was finally getting ready to be recognized for the genius he was.  Someone once told me that grief is the price we pay for loving someone deeply. Looking at the amount of grief on my social media timelines for the past week, it’s clear Black folks loved Chadwick Boseman. Rest in power cuz.


LAUREN

When Barack Obama was elected president of the United States, we all knew that his legacy would always be as The First, whether history remembered his presidency fondly or not. The Black Panther, as brought to the screen by Chadwick Boseman, was also a first. It wasn’t just that he was a Black superhero, no. He was our superhero.

Watching the film again the day after Chadwick Boseman passed away from cancer, I thrilled at this alternate universe, in which we were never conquered and thrived outside of the reach of colonialism and genocide. I watched the rise of this young leader as he confronted his peoples and his own personal responsibility to those of us scattered far and wide in the diaspora without the resources of Wakanda, and I thought about Pres. Obama and the hope he inspired in so many just via representation. Boseman’s Black Panther inspired hope, too, but also made it clear what his legacy would be, how history would remember him.

That kind of nuance is so often denied Black men onscreen, regardless of the genre, but it’s made Boseman’s Black Panther so much more than a two-dimensional hero.

Part of what has made the Marvel cinematic universe popular is the depth of its version of these well-known characters, the amount of nuance allowed. That kind of nuance is so often denied Black men onscreen, regardless of the genre, but it’s made Boseman’s Black Panther so much more than a two-dimensional hero. Perhaps in the hands of a lesser actor, T’Challa wouldn’t have resonated as much as he did, but Boseman’s skill, his ability to imbue this character with warmth, empathy, wit, passion. We watched him grow, change, and work to improve the lived conditions for Black people all over the world. We believed him, we believed in him.

Rest well, Mr. Boseman.

Director Ryan Coogler on the “Black Panther” set with star Chadwick Boseman.
(Matt Kennedy / Marvel Studios)

GARRETT

At this point we know the phenomenon that is Black Panther, the first real, serious, and widely accepted Black superhero. I want to talk about the phenomenon that is Chadwick Boseman. 

The man was and will forever be a legend. He strove to do the character for The Black Panther justice, fought to keep the roots of the character true to Africa and the Black experience. I mean, if you remember in Civil War the talk he had with his father in their native African language (Xhosa), Chadwick pretty much learned that in a day and just did it. This wasn’t a preplanned scene, this was Chadwick wanting to bring this character to reality and the filmmakers went along with it. (Read more about that here!)

He always brought his truth to the roles he played, and to learn a lot of his later roles he was sick is heartbreaking and inspiring at the same time. To do four Marvel movies, to exercise and bulk up to that superhero physique and maintain it for multiple movies, all the while getting chemotherapy and surgeries in between while never complaining, never taking a day off. And to go and visit sick kids, giving them hope all the while suffering himself knowing he could be gone soon himself. If there ever was a true example of a real life superhero it was him.  

The work he put in bringing Black superheroes to the big screen, both real and fictional, can’t be understated.

The work he put in bringing Black superheroes to the big screen, both real and fictional, can’t be understated. James Brown, Jackie Robinson, Thurgood Marshall, the man was bringing Black history to the masses with the utmost respect to the figures and the audience. He was also poised to bring Yasuke, the only Black and non-Asian samurai, to the silver screen. It was a movie I was looking forward to so much to see what he could do with it. The man was on a mission to give all Black historical figures a chance to shine on the big screen, who knows how many more he would have blessed us with if he was given the chance. 

Boseman was a real-life superhero, one whose life and tragic death touched so many. He was our superhero, and he was mine. Forever missed but never forgotten. Rest in Power Chadwick.

Chadwick Boseman featured on the cover of Rolling Stone from 2018.

JOHNATHAN

In the wake of Chadwick Boseman’s passing we are discovering the depth of connection that will be his legacy. He had an acute awareness of that indisputable, beautiful experience of Blackness that binds together those who share it. If the obligation to represent that was ever a weight, then Chadwick Boseman bore it like a crown he was born to. The personal and public stories shared by his colleagues paint a picture of a man that could very well be the subject of one of the biographical movies that Boseman himself starred in. Every role he chose was brought to life with a vulnerability that made each performance his own. 

Even Boseman’s public speaking could be just as much of an event as his latest film. His words carried a reverence of Black personages – historical and contemporary – that opened doors for all of us. He also clearly understood his place in that same lineage, with the responsibility to do the same for all those who would follow in the time after him. After Chadwick Boseman has come much sooner than any of us would have liked, however. In giving the world so much of himself, to pass away in privacy is a dignity that so few of our Black public figures get to experience. 

To be without him in a time that has already taken so much from us, however, is a loss that we will never fully comprehend.

Regardless, Mr. Boseman connects us even in his absence. Through him, the culture has inherited the canon of a one-of-a-kind artist. His ever-dedicated work brought together past and present to catch a glimpse of our future. One can only wish he was here to see it with us. Peace and power both to our King Chadwick Boseman, but above all – Rest.

We have brought our flowers.

For The King.

May he rest in power. May he rest in peace.


Cover Image Photograph Credit: Sam Jones.

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