Belief, it’s a powerful thing. More than a thought, feeling, or emotional response, what we believe guides not only to who we want to be but who we can be. Growing up, being a writer is something that is respected and celebrated when it’s done correctly. Being a good writer can leave a legacy of written words and works that showcase what the world was at the time and what it has become. None of that is possible without belief, specifically believing in oneself. When you’re an actor, sometimes that’s all you have to hold onto, especially between jobs. I think one person that embodied such perseverance was Chadwick Boseman.
Chadwick Boseman died today at the age of 43. He fought bravely through stages three and four of colon cancer. No one in the general public knew about it, and it came as a surprise to most of the entertainment industry. Thinking back on it, Chadwick Boseman as an actor and as a person from what we can see, was a giving individual. He first came into public attention for playing Jackie Robinson in the movie 42. Boseman took on a role so significant in the history of America’s great past time that no one really knew what that film would do in terms of reminding us of the legacy of one of the greatest African-American baseball players to ever play America’s great game.
The rhetoric of racism was strong within the context of the film, but the writers were wise enough to give Boseman the type of comebacks that would not only support him standing up and fighting for what he believed in but also allow the audience to root for Jackie to succeed in his quest to break the color barrier as much as humanly possible. Audiences cheered at that performance because it’s something they could identify with. It’s something they saw themselves in regardless of whether they were part of that demographic or time period. Jackie was playing baseball to break barriers, but Chadwick made it his mission to remind us how many other people broke barriers and how essential it was to the society we now live in.
Boseman’s work demonstrated his commitment to that ethos again when he portrayed James Brown in the movie Get On Up. Brown didn’t have an easy life, and Boseman didn’t portray it as such. As an actor, he did what every great actor is supposed to do, he brought someone’s story to life. This can be seen in any YouTube comparison video between the actual film itself and events that occurred in the life of the Godfather of Soul. Boseman showed that he could break barriers, but he also wanted to make sure people knew the dedication he had his craft, and that is something he showed in the biopic.
Looking through his work as an actor, you can see a trend, and that trend is something very specific. Throughout his career, Boseman, whether intentionally or not, wanted to be a voice for the voiceless, and he wanted to continually tell the stories of those who had been silenced for so long. The thing is, the accomplishments of men like James Brown, Jackie Robinson, and Thurgood Marshall are all well noted in history for the level of success those men achieved but, how they got there isn’t. Boseman made it his mission to see those men honored, but he didn’t stop there.
Most people know of Chadwick Boseman as King T’Challa from the Marvel film Black Panther. Black Panther was introduced in the Marvel Cinematic Universe in the movie Captain America: Civil War. The introduction is essential because it showed African-American families and those of any other minority that even though it was fictional, success can be achieved no matter your background. Boseman worked immensely hard to make that a reality. His version of T’Challa was stoic yet firm and genuine but conscious of his role not only in keeping his kingdom going but also supporting those he befriended along the way. These seemed to be the roles Boseman gravitated towards. Characters and people that built bridges in life and society not broke them down.
No one other than his family and friends will know the amount of strength it took for him to complete the four years’ worth of work he completed while undergoing chemo and going through multiple surgeries. He kept going and kept bringing to life people and characters that made a difference while making a difference to families, children, men, and women all over the world just by saying in his own way, “you are always enough, and your story is always important.” What is essential and evident at this point is the legacy that Chadwick Boseman leaves behind; one where even in a global pandemic, we all know that the stories and the unheard voices need to be told.
Even though he’s gone, Chadwick gave us all something to believe in, not just within the characters he played but within ourselves. Chadwick Boseman inspired belief. That’s the best legacy any king can leave, and for that, we should all be very thankful.