From the day I heard it my life has taken on a special glow. I’ve grown in stature I’m sure, but one thing I know for certain is that my confidence has, without a shadow of a doubt. I’ve been able to look people in the eye and not be afraid. I’ve been able to look people in the eye and see them change. It’s as if they feel they have been recognised for the first time, that someone is really looking at them and seeing them and that makes me feel good because I’ve made a difference to someone’s day.
That’s what Chadwick Boseman – the man, the actor, the director, the writer sought to do. He sought through his work and interaction with others to motivate and inspire, to present when his roles required a true picture of a people with a culture and roots based in Africa. He sought to make people feel good and he certainly did that for all ages since the release in 2018 of the film Black Panther in which he starred.
2020 was going to be another feel-good year and many were really looking forward to it. It was going to be a year loaded with significance. The start of a brand new decade. Most people were expecting momentous moments and positive changes alongside the usual highs and lows. After all, 2020 felt like a magic number, one that would ensure we got more of what we felt we deserved. We were not only going to seize the day, but the whole year.
Instead, what we got was a global pandemic that’s kept us on tenterhooks. Will we or won’t we catch the virus? Will our nearest and dearest be affected by it? Who have we been in contact with that could pass it on to us? The pandemic caused the anxiety level of many to shoot off the scale as they wondered just how long it was going to take to control the virus and bring things back to normal. Many felt they were certainly not in a position to seize the day, or anything else, while the virus was roaming unchecked.
Technology enabled us to work and play, even if Covid-19 meant we couldn’t get physically close to our family and friends. It enabled us to shop for essentials and support those facing difficulties during the weeks that dragged on and became months. It enabled scientists and medical professionals to work together, around the clock, to develop treatments and potential vaccines. And it gave us the opportunity to see and reach out to others around the world.
While the world was working hard to grapple with the virus, Black people were given another blow. Black lives were being cut short. Not only by the disproportionate impact of the virus on Black communities, but by endemic systemic racism and most overtly, by the police.
Racism took on a bold form, perpetrated by the very people that Black communities had a right to expect would protect them. The world watched in horror as technology captured despicable acts like the murder of George Floyd and shared them with the world. The video ignited an international eruption of protest and demands for justice – from all sectors of society. The names of Black men and women murdered or brutalised by the police was made public and widely commemorated. People took to the streets, as well as social media, to stand united, protest against these grave abuses of power, condemn the treatment of Black people and demand change. Technology is helping to keep the fight for justice alive.
The speed of the digital world means the news of someone’s passing is communicated within moments – with eulogies and remembrances shared across social media. One such passing which rocked the world was the unexpected death of Chadwick Boseman. An American actor from South Carolina, Chadwick Boseman was known for his starring roles portraying pioneering Americans Jackie Robinson, James Brown and Thurgood Marshall. He won the hearts of young and old with his acclaimed performance as T’Challa in the film Black Panther, part of the Marvel cinematic universe.
Chadwick Boseman debunked the myth that Black actors couldn’t sell internationally. His skill and talent extended beyond acting to being a writer, a director and a teacher of Black history. The result is a creative body of work that inspires adults, young people and children. It gives them all a reason to feel pride in themselves. To take on challenges. To see and understand the significance of history despite its many complexities. Chadwick Boseman’s work opened doors for the Black community and his legacy provides powerful stories that will be learned from and inspire millions, for generations to come. He encouraged viewers to use their imagination as the first step to achieving their goals. He did all this while privately suffering from cancer, without making it known publicly.
In our collective grief, let’s reflect on what Chadwick Boseman has left for us.
- The importance of having a big, all-encompassing vision.
- Not being afraid to take on a challenge.
- What can happen in a life that acknowledges the presence and the achievements of ancestors.
- his commitment to culture and heritage in his work and how he used it to enrich his creativity and benefit so many others.
Chadwick Boseman has received many accolades in the tributes and testimonies to him. One in particular has resonated because it speaks so powerfully to the times we’re living through. Like him, we should aim to be “bridge builders”. He’s told us that’s possible because we stand on the shoulders of giants – our ancestors. Let’s honour him and do this. Now that he’s one of our ancestors too we know for sure that we can become superheroes in whatever situation we find ourselves in. Technology ensures we can listen again and again to his words, and continue to be inspired.
Chadwick Aaron Boseman, 29 Nov 1976 – 28 Aug 2020 (age 43)