By Martina Evans – CPA, MBA, Esquire
Black America mourns yet again as many of us also endure what Michelle Obama aptly called “low grade depression.” Actor and playwright Chadwick Boseman passed away on August 28, 2020, the same day which Major League Baseball honored baseball legend Jackie Robinson whom Boseman portrayed in the film “42”. We all were stunned and many of us are still grieving deeply the loss of a true African American superhero. His tremendous loss will impact Blacks throughout the Diaspora for generations to come.
The fact of the matter is that we had a connection with Chadwick. He exemplified so much of what many outside the Black community especially say we are not and rarely see in the media – wisdom, morals, poise, grace, generosity, dignity, intellect, humility, honor, strength and character – both on and off the screen. Chadwick chose to portray icons and legends highly esteemed within the Black community: James Brown and Thurgood Marshall as well as Robinson with performances that made you see them instead of the actor. His films left you feeling better, as if you can do and be better. And Chadwick also had unwavering faith which resonated with African Americans making our connection that much stronger.
We are heartbroken. Rarely does a Black man with the “It” factor come along possessing everything it takes to navigate and excel in this WASP, racist, capitalistic society while remaining gentle and humble, grounded in his roots and steadfastly committed to “The Culture.” Chadwick Boseman gave us what we needed when we needed it. And he showed us so much more beyond his years. It is no wonder why so many of us feel this great sense of loss to humanity for his great contributions to humanity.
Chadwick had principles. In his 2018 speech to graduates at his alma mater Howard University, he told a story of how the executives were “pleased” with his performance as a drug dealer on a soap opera. He’d been “conflicted” and responded with questions to help him develop his character: Where is his father? How did his brother and he end up in foster care? Does he have any attributes such as excelling in math? That took courage. He was relieved to have gotten those lingering questions off his chest, completed his third day of filming and was “let go” the next day. It was a blessing in disguise.
Chadwick had pride in his upbringing, in his people, in his heritage and in himself. While fighting cancer, he also fought for the cast of Black Panther to speak African dialects – he spoke Xhosa – instead of the dialect of European colonizers. In fact, it was a “deal breaker” for him. Chadwick rented out a movie theater in his hometown of Anderson, South Carolina for underserved youth for a screening of Black Panther. And in April when Chadwick helped raise money through #Operation42 to assist Black people during the pandemic, people ridiculed, labeled and called him names too horrible to repeat because of his weight loss so much so that he removed photos from his social media accounts. This REALLY hurts.
Chadwick valued privacy, a rare commodity in these times. How commendable. The public never knew of his health condition; Mr. Boseman deliberately shared information only “as needed.” Details emerging since his passing make it even sadder. Despite being in deep physical pain, Chadwick gave to us his best and all the while, kept smiling. However, without a hint of remorse or empathy, name callers, finger pointers and others say, “He should have told us he had cancer.” You were not entitled.
And Chadwick had purpose which is how he lived his life. He was serious, passionate and disciplined about his craft and brilliant in so many ways. Chadwick secretly and valiantly battled colon cancer for four years while filming Black Panther and other projects including Marshall, Da 5 Bloods, 21 Bridges and Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, his last project produced by Denzel Washington to whom Chadwick Boseman paid homage for providing him with an acting scholarship while at Howard. Boseman visited children cancer patients at St. Jude’s Children’s Hospitals despite his diagnosis, uplifting and encouraging them. And his stalwart determination as he fought to the very end hoping to film Black Panther 2 is legendary.
Yet, despite all of this, many refused to pay any respects before “going in.” Within days after he died and before he was laid to rest, comments such as, “Why didn’t he….” or “He should have….” or “Why do you people feel….” or “How is he a king?” appeared following an article from a nationwide publication about Chadwick. These people found fault in everything he stood for or represented and commented without any sense of compassion, any sympathy or condolences to Boseman’s family and fans. How distasteful!
As with other painful events this year – Kobe’s eternal guilt despite charges being dropped; the disparity in Covid-19 related deaths for Blacks; the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and other acts of police brutality and racial violence; the passing of Civil Rights legend John Lewis – this, too, has shown that there are clearly two Americas: A Black one and a White one. Instead of the United States of America, it’s more like the Divided States of America.
Yes, we refer to Boseman as a “king” for what and who he portrayed on the big screen but more for what he did off-screen. We are who we are and we come with our own unique set of qualities and complexities. White people have their king and reject any notion of us having any. Who are they to tell us, Blacks, how to be, feel, act and think; and who to honor, emulate, revere and portray? And who are they to tell us how long to grieve when they’re still mourning their king Elvis…and it’s been over 40 years!
Chadwick embodied characteristics of a king: Royal, stately, decisive, anointed, blesses others. Even his name is regal: Chadwick Boseman. Both “kings” were in their prime and close in age when they passed: Chadwick was 43 and Elvis was 42. And they shared a middle name. However, the similarities end there: Elvis abused and died addicted to drugs. No valor there. He brought his “wife” from overseas at age 14 to live in his home for years before they married. Yet, no criminal charges. Although grossly overweight when he died, nobody criticized, labeled or called him ugly names. And he stole music from Black artists and placed his name on them. Yet, he made no contributions to the Black community…..oh, yeah, he once bought a Cadillac for a Black lady at a dealership. Humph! A trinket. How typical!
Wakanda, the setting for Black Panther, represents a world, a technologically advanced African kingdom without European colonizers or influence. The film made Disney $1.344 billion. Yet when Whoopi Goldberg suggested a Wakanda theme park, all (white people) hell broke loose. How dare Disney make a tourist attraction for millions to visit called Wakanda! But what is Graceland but a tourist attraction?
And many are still lamenting the loss of the Civil War rejecting any notion of a statue being erected in Chadwick’s hometown to replace a ‘confederate’ statue of someone we’ve never heard of and who meant no good. Despite his somewhat brief but illustrious career, Boseman is the only person of notoriety from there. Why not give distinction to someone who has put Anderson, South Carolina on the map?
We’ve never been “given” anything since arriving over 401 years ago. Our ancestors built this country for free and yet, they try to label us “lazy.” They’ve started a movement to keep our youth from learning the truth about slavery via The 1619 Project. We never received our 40 acres and a mule. Dr. King told us Whites were given land grants while the KKK and others took our land and HUD helped developers build “suburbs” to exclude Blacks. This helped create huge wealth gaps. We’ve witnessed others receive reparations as we’re consistently denied them. We are still fighting for equality at every level, especially in education. The contradiction of affirmative action being “no longer needed” while espousing white privilege still abounds. Blacks have had to fight for everything we’ve ever gotten, and after we receive voting, civil and other federal protections, they continue to try to take them away! No More Trinkets!!!
As Blacks, we cannot be swayed by the detractors who are now using the same tactics they have used for centuries: Distraction, divisiveness and deception, derision and debate. They’ve done everything to strip Michael Jackson of the “’King’ of Pop” title and now seek to deprive us of Chadwick’s. We cannot listen to those who’ve never had our best interest at heart to tell us who are our heroes; that we should not consider Boseman a “king” despite his once in a lifetime presence; and that we should not grieve a person we’ve never met. They are the same people who say that we “must” as good “Christians” forgive White oppressors for 250 years of violent enslavement of African men, women, girls and boys; for the Jim Crow racism and lynchings that followed; and for the racial injustice, violence and police brutality that still exists. These same ones try to tell us when, how and who to forgive. Yet, they won’t even forgive OJ!
No, don’t listen Black people. How long we should grieve over Chadwick, Breonna, George, Elijah, Eric, Daniel, Ahmaud, Tamir, Travon, Michael, Sandra, Stephon, James, Rayshard and others is personal. And it’s cultural. As the saying goes, it’s a Black thing. They wouldn’t understand. Just like a man witnessing a woman in the travails of childbirth, White people can never understand how we feel being Black in America. Simply sit back, shut up and if you can’t or won’t support, walk away.
Chadwick was blessed to have realized his God given purpose as he endeavored to fulfill it. We say, “Gone too soon,” and “Not enough time,” and “I thought we’d have more time (life) seeing your star rise.” He is a legend who will live on in our hearts and through his art. Thank you Chadwick Boseman for the gifts and legacy you left us. God bless. We love you. We miss you. Deepest sympathy and condolences. Rest in eternal peace, King.
Martina D. Evans is founder of Black Money Matters. Black Money Matters is a not for profit social action coalition. Our primary focus of is to emphasize, promote and raise awareness and consciousness about Black economic empowerment. We strive to seek out, buy from, patronize, support and create Black owned businesses. Our motto is to Buy Black. Simply put, we are Black people reminding Black people to support Black businesses.