I first learned about Chadwick when he was announced to be casted in the movie, "Black Panther," as King T'Challa. Even before seeing the movie, we could feel the power of how amazing it was to have HIM be the first person of color - the first African American male - to lead a movie in the popular cinematic universe of Marvel Studios.
Movies bring people of all ages and backgrounds together and "Black Panther" was more than a movie. On and off screen, Chadwick was a superhero: Centered, resilient, and used his position to fight for what was right for everyone, especially his people. It was only yesterday when I realized that he was battling cancer over the past four years and through his filming projects. I am amazed by the strength he had while continuing to pursue his passions and making his growing impacts in film, activism, and beyond.
His role in "Black Panther" was symbolic on many levels. This movie depicted an African society, Wakanda, that presented itself as a third world country to the rest of the world, but was highly rich and advanced in culture, leadership, research, and technology. It also touched on the identity of being African American. Our community of African Americans/Blacks have complex and unfair experiences living in the United States. Their ancestors were forcibly and brutally taken from their countries to live as slaves who were stripped from their homes, families, cultures, names, rights, freedoms, and so much more. Being Black is still considered inferior by the rules and ways of our society. Some African Americans/Blacks feel closely linked to their African roots, while others do not.
For me, this movie celebrates the beauty of African cultures and inspires African American/Black people to take pride in who they are, where their families and ancestors come from, and what they stand for as a collective. Chadwick played an important part in the success and authenticity of the movie, such as urging his producers that he needed to act with an African accent rather than a British or American one.
The power of Chadwick's role spread throughout the world - from the Oscars to our public schools. For Halloween, many students, African American/Black or not, were excited telling me that they wanted to be Black Panther. Chadwick has been and will continue to be a role model for many of our youth, especially our African American/Black boys, and stood for the fact that being Black is powerful and brilliant. That they can be superheroes, too. That they can change the world.
I am thinking of him and his family during this time. I know that he will live on through his legacy. I will definitely be honoring him by exploring his other works, such as starring as Jackie Robinson and Thurgood Marshall, and learning more about the causes that he was involved in during his time with us.
Thank you, Chadwick, for being a superhero as an actor and as an individual.
May you rest in power,