This morning, it's been hard to look away from all the messages of inspiration and condolences for Chadwick Boseman on Instagram. I feel them deeply and am right there with all these people.
It's no secret to those who know me well that I love comics. I have since I discovered X-Men as a kid. I was enthralled by their powers, stories of perseverance in the face of high stakes adversity, loving and believing in others even when it was hard. For a child who wanted so desperately to fit in the stories hit home over and over again. These were my stories.
But there was a problem. They didn't look like me. Dressing or playing up as them felt incomplete, and many times I was flat out told " X superhero can't be black. He's not black."
Fast forward to thirties Henry. I had eagerly anticipated the release of Black Panther. Flanked by some of my closest friends, and bathed in their fellow excitement, I sat wide eyed as the unspoiled African nation of Wakanda is displayed in her full glory on the big screen for the fist time. This interpretation is what the ten year old science nerd inside of me had always imagined from the pages of the comics but only dared to dream he'd actually ever see it realized.
Chadwick as King T'Challa, the Black Panther, was physically strong but wasn't a muscle head. He thought before acting and made decisions based on his heart AND mind.
He was surrounded by powerful women in their own right. Powerful because of their big hearts, high intelligence, loyalty, caring. The trust they shared was deep and it's apparent that women are held in the highest regard in Wakandan society, which aligns with my own ideas of the women in my life and in this world.
He was me fully realized...and in that moment I couldn't remember ever feeling so completely seen. I didn't even know what it felt like until that moment. The feeling was deep and beautiful thinking of the moment still brings goosebumps every time.
Since I heard the news I've been thinking of what it must have been like to have a terminal diagnosis and pursue projects that have touched so many. Affirmed who they are and that they exist. If there are any clues, it's in how Chadwick carried himself. The joy he shared with fans who had, and still have, unending words of gratitude that he gracefully showed up what we need to see.
And y'all. He could dress his ass off. A fashion inspiration.
Chadwick, man, you've left a mark. Your movie work as some of our greatest examples of black culture and history forever changed the way I see myself in ways I can't even express. Though your work on this earth is done the mark you've left is eternal.
Rest in power my brother.