Chadwick Boseman didn’t just make movies…he taught life lessons
Classrooms aren’t the only places we learn important lessons. That reality doesn’t, of course, minimize institutional education’s value. But, the fact that experience and observation can be good teachers remains. Experiencing and observing Chadwick Boseman was a masterclass in courage, determination, and heroism.
Embodying Black liberation
In death, Boseman has become iconic for playing icons and embodying pure Black liberation. This Black gay social justice warrior must confess publicly struggling with Black Panther. Seeing real-life Black liberators on screen is what I thought I needed — not fictional characters. Black siblings, rightfully, called me out for my pathetic and ill-informed critique.
I’ve seen and watched Black Panther multiple times now. Each separate cinematic experience reminds me what I missed the first time. Streaming the movie stripped me of the communal celebration of Blackness.
Looking every bit of an African queen in my living is acceptable. But, gathering with fellow royalty from the African diaspora would’ve been so fulfilling and affirming. Now, only living through others’ experience via Facebook photos must suffice. Unless, some siblings want to host a Black Panther ZOOM party. Now, I’m clear on its value in so many ways.
While the entire cast made the movie, how Boseman portrayed him made the experience so deep and rich. His depiction of King T’Challa of Wakanda revealed a leader who understood that it takes a village. Producers and directors didn’t solely influence the performance. Boseman’s experiences and insight informed his approach to the character.
More than a performance
Playing T’Challa wasn’t just a role and Black Panther was more than a movie for Boseman. And, he knew both the cast and audience that reality too.
“This experience is an opening for people’s consciousness. Their boundaries should be shaken and moved. There’s a hero here that I hope people grow to love.”
T’Challa was a character this writer grew to admire, love and respect. Wakanda’s king didn’t let his power corrupt. He didn’t get it twisted: Being king didn’t make him better than others. Watching every scene prompted me to concepts of leadership.
Real leaders need not dehumanize people to guide their followers. And, delegation isn’t tantamount to dereliction. Delegating and entrusting Wakanda’s future to women paid tribute to women from the African diaspora who are and were the backbone of a Black siblinghood.
Boseman’s acting wasn’t the only thing educating me. Seeing him on the interview and public speaking circuit provided a few teachable moments. Patiently waiting for opportunity’s knock can be excruciating. Boseman, a Howard University alum, offered a pearl of wisdom to graduating Bison at HU’s 150th Commencement Ceremony in 2018. It spoke volumes to me.
“When God has something for you, it doesn’t matter who stands against it. God will move someone that’s holding you back away from the door and put someone there who will open it for you if it’s meant for you,” Boseman said.
He reminded me to trust in a higher power, which you might not call God, and revel in my Blackness. Blackness is beautiful, despite what some people say. Wakanda forever!