Opinion | Boseman legacy advances Black representation


Photo Courtesy of Gage Skidmore

Photo Courtesy of Gage Skidmore Chadwick Boseman speaks at the 2017 San Diego Comic Con International for “Black Panther.” Columnist Dennis proclaims Boseman was more than an actor and that he will live on in fans’ memories as a social and political justice advocate.

By Dennis Austin, Columnist

Chadwick Boseman — as one friend put it to me — was the Christopher Reeves of our generation.

His presence on-screen radiated far beyond the world of fiction. Upon learning of the star’s death on Friday evening, I briefly reflected on how the movie “Black Panther” impacted me and how the film was able to weave complex racial themes into its storyline. 

As America moves past a summer dominated by racial justice and outbreaks of violence and heads toward a contentious presidential election, the fate of Black America is yet to be determined. As seen by our vulnerability to COVID-19, systemic racism and other social ills, Black America stands at a precarious position in this nation.

Despite these challenges, we remain steadfast. The NBA went on a temporary hiatus in the wake of Jacob Blake, and other sports leagues followed. Athletes are demanding more from their mostly white administration, and young Black Lives Matter activists are standing on the frontlines against the ever-present racial imbalances that have defined America since the first slave ships arrived on shore. 

We are a turning point in American history, and what drives us is not just the memory of our ancestors who fought this fight, but a renewed spirit deep in the soul of every Black man, woman and child. I believe without error it can be said that “Black Panther” was more than a cinematic juggernaut, but a symbol of Black pride and self-determination. For many African Americans who saw that film, we draw from it a special sense of self.

It was a film that embraced our culture and our history. It was not plagued with the atypical white-washed Hollywood narratives and stereotypes that have often tainted Black cinema. It was something different. Unique. All while telling our story. If you pay close enough attention to Black history, you will notice a particular theme: struggle. A struggle to be recognized as human beings. A struggle to obtain our civil rights. A struggle to not be judged as guilty before innocent. But something beautiful happens. We overcome.

“Black Panther” captured that struggle and endurance, as did Boseman’s other critically acclaimed films: “42,” where he depicts Jackie Robinson’s fight to desegregate baseball, and Marshall, which follows Thurgood Marshall before his appointment as the country’s first Black Supreme Court Justice.

Boseman was more than an actor. He portrayed our history with passion and fervor our history — and all which inhabits that history — the proverbial good, bad, ugly and indifferent. Even as he was privately losing his battle to cancer, he threw himself into his work while tirelessly advocating for social and political justice in his community. 

His presence will be sorely missed, yet we will continue to stand on the frontlines of justice in his memory. Rest in power, King.

Dennis is a senior in LAS.

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