Blockbuster Black Panther’s actor Chadwick Boseman leaves an unforgettable legacy we must build on - GulfToday

Blockbuster Black Panther’s actor Chadwick Boseman leaves an unforgettable legacy we must build on


Chadwick Boseman. Reuters/ File

Rabina Khan, The Independent

I was emotional on Friday when I heard the sad news that the Black Panther superhero Chadwick Boseman had died at the age of 43 from colon cancer.

I felt for Boseman and his family, but also for the memory of standing in the queue with my nine-year-old son waiting to buy tickets for the 2018 movie that made the actor a household name — certainly in my house.

We watched Black Panther together many times at home especially under lockdown, my son dressed in the superhero costume jumping around the room quoting lines from the film.

It made me a proud mum.

The role Boseman played in Black Panther and several Marvel Comics films was that of T’Challa, the young king of an ancient African tribe who is intelligent, fair-minded, adaptable and open to criticism.

It is these qualities that had an immense impact on my family, on the Black Lives Matter movement and on families of colour everywhere. The reason for this, quite simply can be given in two words: pride and positivity.

Those who are not of colour often have a hard time understanding why so many people of colour rave about Black Panther. The answer is that here was a multi-million dollar Hollywood franchise that wasn’t showing black pain and black suffering, but a progressive view of the black experience, a confidence in its very blackness that burst from every frame and camera angle.  

Boseman broke the mould. He was reported as saying he had never seen a dynamic positive black character in movies when he started acting and that only inspired him to seek out roles to portray that experience. “The struggles along the way are only meant to shape you for your purpose,” he told students at his old high school when he returned to give a speech.

Jamil Smith argued in Time magazine that Black Panther could “prove to Hollywood that African-American narratives have the power to generate profits from all audiences” and described it as a resistance to “a regressive cultural and political moment fuelled in part by the white-nativist movement”.

This is not to be racist or argue for further distinctions based on nothing more than skin pigmentation. Racial and ethnic socialisation is the only way to strengthen the identity of all groups and reduces the likelihood of internalising negative stereotypes about one’s ethnic group.

What makes me sad is that some people see a black star doing well in their career as an affront to white culture.

Roderick Lynch, chair of the Liberal Democrats Campaign for Racial Equality, a lifelong anti-racist campaigner said: “People have wondered why Black Panther and an all-black cast led by Chadwick meant for people of colour; why cinemas were sold out and why the film will resonate for generations to come. The film challenged stereotypes of black people and put forward a moving and powerful narrative. Fighting racism is not for the swift but for those that can endure it.”

I put out a tweet when I heard the news of Boseman’s death: “I remember my son proudly in his Black Panther costume and how under lockdown we watched the film as a family again and again. Chadwick Boseman gave the world an unforgettable legacy.”

It wasn’t long before I got this response from someone named Francis: Let’s hope it inspires you to go back to your own land.

I expect more. A lot more.

Such hateful words have no place in this world.

Black Panther was a defining moment in the world of film, for black people and people of colour. And Chadwick Boseman will live in our hearts forever.

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