Philly grieves death of Chadwick Boseman — Black superhero on screen and in life

Boseman’s death left Philadelphians grieving the loss of a beloved Black icon.

Chadwick Boseman arriving for the 90th annual Academy Awards

File photo dated March 4, 2018 of Chadwick Boseman arriving for the 90th annual Academy Awards (Oscars) held at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles, CA. (Photo by Lionel Hahn/Abaca/Sipa USA via AP Images)

Actor Chadwick Boseman, star of the successful Black Panther film, has died after a four-year battle with colon cancer, a statement posted on his Twitter account announced Friday. He was 43 years old.

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“A true fighter, Chadwick persevered through it all, and brought you many of the films you have come to love so much,” the statement reads. “It was the honor of his career to bring King T’Challa to life in Black Panther.”

The 2018 release of the Black Panther movie — based on the Marvel Comics character of the same name — sent shock waves around the world for its inclusion and representation of Black and African culture, experience and history, in a popular genre of film that is not often seen.

The film grossed more than $700 million dollars in the United States and Canada, becoming the highest-grossing superhero film and the highest-grossing film by a Black director in history.

It also was the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s first Oscar-winning movie.

In Philadelphia, Black Panther’s power resonated with the film selling out local theaters and inspiring audiences. Local Philly schools like Mary McLeod Bethune Elementary fundraised money to take students on a field trip to see it.

“It represents African-Americans and Africans from the Diaspora coming together to fight evil, to fight oppression,” said Bethune teacher Herman Douglas in 2018. “To get children to actually see that there’s a possibility that we can solve our own problems in our own community is extremely powerful.”

Boseman — a Howard University graduate originally from South Carolina — had many other notable roles in his acting career, including portraying Black historical figures such as Jackie Robinson in the 2013 film, “42,” and James Brown in the 2014 film “Get on Up.” He also portrayed his T’Challa/Black Panther character in other Marvel Cinematic Universe films.

In 2019, he played the lead role in “21 Bridges,” which although is set in New York City, filmed scenes all across the Philadelphia region.

Most recently, he started in Spike Lee’s Vietnam war drama, “Da 5 Bloods.”

Boseman’s death left Philadelphians grieving the loss of a beloved Black hero who, until the very end of his life, remained engaged in his community and a fight for a better tomorrow.

Phillies outfielder Andrew McCutchen wrote on Twitter about meeting Boseman in 2013 at the premiere of “42” in Pittsburgh.

“Even though you were in the spotlight and all eyes were on you, I remember you saying, ‘I’m that one that’s starstruck by all of these athletes here.’ That’s the man you were. Humble,” McCutchen wrote.

Questlove, of The Roots fame, shared an interview clip of Boseman, sharing a story of children he met while filming Black Panther who were fighting cancer and hoped to hold out in time to see the movie.

“Words will never describe the feeling in the air the week #BlackPanther premiered,” Questlove wrote. “To watch people transformed beaming with pride & purpose. I seen firsthand the effect of this movie & how a film of this caliber could change people. … Let’s also see the teachable lesson that you never truly know what someone is going through in their life. Never take anyone for granted. Especially in these times.”

Activist Jamira Burley – who grew up in Philly, attending Overbrook High School, and went on to become an advocate for gun violence, police violence, and criminal justice reform at a national level, remembered Boseman’s impact, sharing a scene from the movie, in which his character reunites with his father.

“Thanks for sharing yourself with the world, even in your darkest of times,” wrote Burley, who is now the head of youth engagement and skills for the Global Business Coalition for Education. “Rest IN Power.”

Ibram X. Kendi — author of the best-seller “How to be an Antiracist,” who earned a Ph.D. in African American Studies from Temple University in 2010, shared that he was “crushed,” waking up in the middle of the night to the news of Boseman’s passing. Kendi is a survivor of colon cancer.

“It’s too much. Chadwick gave us so much. So much. And how he’s gone,” Kendi wrote. “However, his art, his work remains. Colon cancer: you can never take his art, his work. It is eternal. And colon cancer: you can’t kill our love of Chadwick. It is eternal. Rest in our love my brother.”

Local Philadelphia political leaders shared their sadness over the loss of the actor. City Council President Darrell Clarke said that Boseman “brought icons to life and showed a generation of kids that superheroes could look like them too. May he know peace after his long, quiet battle.”

State Sen. Sharif Street, who represents North Philadelphia, remembered Boseman’s portrayal of “Black America and its culture.”

“Like the icons he portrayed, his impact on Black culture and cinema will forever be with us.”

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