CHADWICK BOSEMAN, Black Panther, Who Connects Us to Africa

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Ebele Oseye

TRIBUTE

The Black Panther has made a final leap, from Time to Eternity. Chadwick Boseman’s transition Friday, August 28, struck us as sudden, shocking. We cried out. Many wept for hours. Many would not sleep Friday night. Chadwick Boseman had given so much to the world: an abundance of strength, an abundance of beauty. He was the embodiment of ancestral Power and Truth. When I saw him in “Black Panther” I saw the authoritative and confident grace of a Baba, a powerful Nigerian man. He empowered inspired young African American men, bringing them to know themselves. There was nothing superficial in his avocation for human rights. He stood and moved with the power, grace and beauty of the Panther, his authentic masculinity in sharp contrast to any superficial cinematic posture. Author, actor and activist, he inspired us all to continue the struggle for human rights.
And now it seems he has gone away.

Marcus Garvey said, “I will teach the black man to see beauty in himself.” Chadwick Boseman, regal and gracious made conspicuous the indisputable beauty and power of African men. Chadwick Boseman had not only begun to learn the Yoruba language, but also encouraged the cast to be meticulous in learning and speaking the South African Xhosa which we hear early in the film. The book, Black Panther the Official Movie Special, is a wonderful gift to give in this time of deep remembering. As we experience continuing contemporary racial brutalities this portrait of a black man in harmony with nature, immersed in deep Ancestral energies, powerful in imagination, brilliant, compassionate agile and strong highlights the enormity of racial injustice which wantonly destroys a beautiful life.

Boseman’s death on the 57th Anniversary of the March on Washington and the brutal murder of Emmitt Till, further reminds us that, as Angela Davis says, “Freedom is a constant struggle.” Racial hatred, a deadly pandemic, must be uprooted. Africans born on the continent, Africans born in the Caribbean and in America as powerful collaborators in “Black Panther” provide a timely reminder that we must keep hope alive. Unity is essential in matters of life and death.

During World War II, the all Black US Army 761st Tank Battalion was dubbed, “The Black Panthers.” In 1966 Jack Kirby took that name for his Marvel hero which Chadwick Boseman very much enjoyed reading about in his young years. But with research, travel and collaboration, the original image was greatly expanded to the grand and powerful panther Goddess of ancient Kemet (Egypt), Bast, who is evoked early in the film.

When we hear Chadwick Boseman’s voice delivering the commencement address at Howard University in 2018, he is so present, so alive. His voice is comforting as he thanks the university for preparing him to effectively deliver the roles of Jackie Robinson, Thurgood Marshall, James Brown and Black Panther. He would accurately inhabit the spirit and essential energies of each role and this extraordinary capacity could be compared to the Yoruba Orisha, described in Zora Neale Hurston’s, Tell My Horse.

The author of Between the World and Me, Ta-Nehisi Coates, was one of Chadwick Boseman’s many appreciative classmates at Howard University paying tribute to the actor, author and activist who, despite superlative health challenges, lived his final years with grace and power.
Chadwick Boseman, our Black Panther who recalled so many ancient Truths and who gave so much to the World, has made his transition. May the Ancestors be pleased. May the Ancestors welcome him. He lives forever.
––Ebele Oseye teaches African Literature at Pace University