chadwick boseman

Chadwick Boseman’s Legacy Lives on in the Black Panther Generation

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The world reeled in shock late Friday night as news broke that Chadwick Boseman had passed away at the young age of 43. The Black Panther star spent four years privately fighting colon cancer while tirelessly creating an iconic body of work. It’s a devastating loss in a year already filled with heartbreak and anguish. But it is an acutely painful loss for the Black community who in Boseman, finally found a superhero of their own.

In an essay for The Hollywood Reporter, NBA legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar describes Boseman’s impact by writing,

“That’s what makes Chadwick Boseman so important to the black community. He was and is a celluloid monument as powerful as the Lincoln Memorial, a visual manifestation of the qualities African Americans strive for, so that his name itself conjures the image of a black man with integrity and courage. Someone devoted to truth and an unwillingness to compromise his principles …

The death of someone so young and vital is always a blow because it yanks our own mortal coil with a fearful snap. But this is worse because Boseman consistently played characters that gave black community pride and hope. We came out of his movies with straighter spines and wider smiles. We would look at each other and nod, feeling like we were part of something bigger than ourselves, something that went back generations to a whole different continent. We saw a whole history of our people’s struggles and triumphs shining in the bright eyes of one indomitable man.”

As news spread of Boseman’s passing, co-stars and friends took to social media to offer condolences and tributes, including former president Barack Obama. But the most moving tributes were from families and fans who shared pictures of their children loving Black Panther. The internet was flooded with images of kids dressed in their Black Panther costumes, playing with their Black Panther toys.

Boseman’s enduring legacy will be this generation, the Black Panther generation. Children of color who finally got to experience the joy of having a hero that looks like them. We talk a lot about the importance of representation, but never has that need been more apparent. It’s what made Black Panther such an effusive cultural moment. And it is what makes this loss so poignant and painful.

While we mourn the death of Chadwick Boseman, we cannot help but be awestruck by the impact he has had on a generation of kids. What an enduring legacy, what a gift. What an iconic performance and character that will indelibly be imprinted on this generation and those that come after.

Tonight, ABC is airing Black Panther without commercials, followed by an ABC News special Chadwick Boseman – A Tribute for a King. The special will feature “tributes that have poured in from celebrities, political figures and fans across the world, special words from those who starred alongside him and knew Boseman best, and shine a light on the medical condition he privately battled.”

Rest in Power, King.

(image: Matt Kennedy / Marvel Studios)

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Chelsea Steiner
Chelsea was born and raised in New Orleans, which explains her affinity for cheesy grits and Britney Spears. An pop culture journalist since 2012, her work has appeared on Autostraddle, AfterEllen, and more. Her beats include queer popular culture, film, television, republican clownery, and the unwavering belief that 'The Long Kiss Goodnight' is the greatest movie ever made. She currently resides in sunny Los Angeles, with her husband, 2 sons, and one poorly behaved rescue dog. She is a former roller derby girl and a black belt in Judo, so she is not to be trifled with. She loves the word “Jewess” and wishes more people used it to describe her.