By Ana Carolina Aguiar
“To be young, gifted, and black,” Chadwick Boseman began his acceptance speech at the 2019 Screen Actors Guild (SAG) Awards, quoting singer and activist Nina Simone after the cast of “Black Panther” won the award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture.
The speech, given over a year before Boseman’s untimely death on Aug. 28, 2020, went viral and inspired many in the Black community. Such inspiration and uplifting were characteristics of Boseman in his career.
At 43 years old, Chadwick Boseman left behind his family, fans and a versatile career as an actor, director and screenwriter, after losing his battle with colon cancer. The news devastated fans all over the globe, many of whom know him from his iconic role as T’Challa in the groundbreaking film “Black Panther”.
As the first Marvel film with a predominantly Black cast, “Black Panther” paved Boseman’s path as a catalyst for changing the lack of representation of his community on the big screen. Children, teenagers, and adults were able to resonate with T’Challa in a way they had not experienced before.
Boseman’s success, however, began in 2010 when he got his first major role as a series regular on “Persons Unknown”. His breakthrough performance came in 2013 with his depiction of baseball icon Jackie Robinson in the biographical film "42”. The film earned $27.3 million on its opening weekend, the best-ever debut for a baseball-themed film according to Entertainment Weekly.
He also played Thurgood Marshall in “Marshall” in 2017, which earned him the award for Best Actor in the 2018 Black Entertainment Television (BET) Awards.
Offscreen, Boseman’s honorable qualities were echoed when actress Sienna Miller disclosed that Boseman took a pay cut to boost her salary for the film “21 Bridges” in 2019.
“He said that that was what I deserved to be paid,” said Miller, adding that this “astounding” gesture was a testament to who Boseman was.
Due to his esteemed character, Boseman’s death stunned the world, including students in the Barry community.
Senior English major Courtney Scales remembers Boseman not only for his portrayal of T’Challa, but as an activist on and off the screen.
“He was beloved in my community, but he represented all of humanity well,” said Scales, adding that his persona made him a “real-life superhero”.
This sentiment is shared by senior business major Johanne Saint-Juste who believes Boseman will be remembered for the respect and sincerity he showed the people around him.
“[Chadwick] exhibited a level of strength and nobility within the Black community while simultaneously inspiring people to never let go of their dreams and to be proud of their roots,” said Saint-Juste.
“He was and forever will be a hero,” Saint-Juste added.
In continuous mourning of Chadwick Boseman, his fans will hold his memory as a reminder to pursue their dreams and fight for opportunities due to the immeasurable impact he had on every member of the community.