I’m thinking about Black creators today.
Intentionally – like, I do most days, but today it feels even more important.
I woke up in the wee hours of the morning – around 3am – for absolutely no reason; just couldn’t sleep. I’ve been trying to not make a habit out of checking my phone while I’m in bed because it gives my brain signals that I’m awake, but I decided to anyway. I found out about Chadwick Boseman passing in a bit of a roundabout way – after seeing someone post on Twitter about the importance of (Black) men getting their prostates and colons checked annually. One of the replies expressed some appreciation for Chadwick’s estate being able to be the one to share the news (they didn’t say of what), before TMZ, etc. got a hold of it. After tapping away at the keys on my phone, I found out that Chadwick had passed yesterday after a four year-long battle with colon cancer.
The first time I got to witness Chadwick’s talents was in 42 (2013), a biopic based on the life and legacy of Jackie Robinson. I don’t remember much about the movie because it was so long ago, but I remember thinking about how talented Chadwick was. He was really perfect for that role. And I remember being excited about hearing that he was chosen to play James Brown in Get On Up (2014), Thurgood Marshall in Marshall (2017), and T’Challa in Black Panther (2018). I knew he would do those roles justice. It became a bit of a running joke for me that if there was a biopic about a famous Black person, Chadwick would be the one they’d cast for the role. The more Chadwick, the better. And he had the talent and presence for it, anyway. As well as the drive to be a part of showing Blackness fully. Chadwick made it a point to center Black stories and Black people. Chadwick was and has been an essential part of giving life to Black folks on screen in ways that we’ve often been shut out of. And the work he did to do that cannot be ignored or understated.
He could have very easily spent the years between his diagnosis and his passing deciding to take some time way. Time to rest and be with his family. More time to recover. But he spent his last four years doing what he loved and uplifting Black folks in the process. I’ll never forget what a moment in time February 2018 was. Seeing Black folks from all over the diaspora dressed in dashikis, kente, and headwraps. Black parents accompanying their Black children to see a Black hero on screen during Black History Month. Black babies dressed up as T’Challa, M’Baku, Shuri, or Nakia the following Halloween. The smiles and joy that Black folks all over the world were feeling after seeing themselves reflected in the beauty of a movie with a predominantly Black cast and a Black director. Me, scamming my college 🙂 into paying for a group of 60 Black students to go see the movie, with the promise of us having a pre-film discussion (we did it, albeit reluctantly). We talked big shit about Future’s verse on “King’s Dead,” but the Black Panther soundtrack was played at high volumes for weeks after the movie came out. The heavy drums on each track acting as the collective heartbeat of Black folks all over the world as we came together to celebrate our moment. A moment that Chadwick was essential to creating. And that’s not to suggest that Chadwick’s entire life and career depended on Black Panther because he’s held many incredible roles and done many incredible things outside of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. But it is to recognize the power that Black creators have.
Black stories are important.
Black art is important.
Black spirit is important.
Black makers are important.
Black people are important.
Chadwick knew that and stood in that with every move he made. And I’ll be forever grateful to have had the opportunity to be impacted by his work. The world can’t run without Black creators. Please don’t forget that. Don’t wait until we’ve lost someone to give them their flowers; appreciate them every chance you get. Don’t be afraid to tell someone you love and respect them and what they do. And if you’re a Black creator, please keep making things. Make things for you. Make things for your family, your friends. Make things to keep in secret or show to the world. Honor your craft. Respect your craft. Hone in your craft. Water it. Believe in your ability to give life to beautiful things. Everything you write, paint, draw, sing, rap, compose, produce…it’s worth it. Please make it.
Thank you, Chadwick.
Haven’t I been tellin’ y’all that southern Black folks are the BEST??