Note from BW of Brazil: I got the news on Saturday morning. I had just waken up and grabbed my cell to check any new messages that I may have missed the previous night. That’s when I read a message from a friend in the state of Arizona. As Arizona is about four hours difference in terms of time, he sent it at about 7:48pm AZ time but as it was 11:48 São Paulo time, I had already turned in for the night. The message read: “Chadwick Boseman is dead at 43! Colon Cancer…rumor is that he had it for some time.”
“Damn!”, I thought. I instantly went online to confirm and there it was: “Chadwick Boseman de Pantera Negra, morre de câncer aos 43 anos”. I don’t think you need to read Portuguese to know what that says. 43 years old. Sad. A shame. A loss. Of course, as I was in Brazil when the whole Black Panther explosion hit, I knew the web would soon be full of people expressing their sadness.
Journalist Maria Júlia “Maju” Countinho was one. Since her meteoric rise at Brazil’s top television news network and the celebration of her ascension within the Afro-Brazilian community, Maju surely knows what representation means for black people. The journalist paid homage to the actor giving the arms crossed symbol gesture made famous in the Black Panther film during a recent broadcast on a Globo news journal.
I wonder if Boseman or any of the other actors and director of the film had any idea how huge this film was for Brazil’s black community. Over the course of the film’s showing across Brazil I did a number of stories showing reactions and the way black Brazilians organized all-black audiences to watch the film together.
Boseman’s passing is the second time in the past year that I can remember in which an important media production with a cast of black protagonists passed away in which there had been talks of either resuming a series or doing a part two of a film. The first was actor/comedian John Witherspoon, who had been lending his voice to the character Granddad in the popular Adult Swim cartoon The Boondocks. Witherspoon died in October of last year.
Boseman’s unexpected passing, in some ways, confirmed something that many of us had thought for at least a year or two. I can’t remember if it was 2018 or 2019, I just remember seeing photos of the actor in which he appeared to be a little sickly. I think we all react with the usual “Is he/she OK?” when we see people who we are accustomed to seeing carrying more weight suddenly drop a lot of weight. It may not actually be sudden. They could be gradually losing weight and keeping a low public profile, so when they finally emerge publicly and we see them, it’s like, “What happened?” Similar whispers were made when people saw activist Rev. Al Sharpton and music producer Jimmy Jam when they appeared slim and trim.
Anyway, I gotta express mad respect for Boseman. It seems that the actor pushed on with his work after he had already been diagnosed with colon cancer. This means he had already been diagnosed when he was filing the Panther movie. There are a number of Boseman films that I’ve been wanting to see for some time, including films about historical figures such as baseball player Jackie Robinson in 42 (2013), singer James Brown in Get on Up (2014), and Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall in Marshall (2017). I really want to see them now.
Anyway, below is a piece by Maria Angélica and messages from a number of famous Afro-Brazilians expressing their sorrow, admiration and respect for Boseman as well as what his image and role in Black Panther meant for black Brazilians.
The hero of a people
By Maria Angélica
Who never wanted to see himself as a hero? Who has never wanted to believe that he had super powers? That’s exactly what Chadwick gave to the população negra (black population), a real and faithful hero to the end
If we look in the dictionary for the word act, it means “to play a role, to represent”. We only know the value of this representation if we have grown up with the lack of it: whoever dreamed of seeing himself, of believing that he was a superhero with special powers, but who was barred because, on the big screens, nobody looks like you. It is difficult to explain representativeness to whoever has had it. When I think of the weight of representation, I think of Chadwick Boseman.
When it was announced that the story of T’Challa would be adapted for a film production, there was a commotion among young people, children, adults, the nerd/geek community and people who didn’t even have contact with this universe, but recognized the importance of a black hero.
Black Panther and Chadwick merged: it’s not a relationship of actor and character, it’s a link between the history of a people, between the restart, between the infinite possibilities that exist to dream and conquer. The feeling that black children had when they saw themselves on the big screen, that they could believe that they are heroes and that they are more than scars is something immeasurable.
The pain of loss is mixed with gratitude for having a real hero, of flesh, bone and black skin to be inspired by. The King of Wakanda is present, in every child who had enjoyed the film, in every young person who was touched, in every adult who was carried away by the dream of being able to see themselves. Boseman fought inside and outside of the cinema. With determination, he fought a war against advanced cancer, but continued with his work and didn’t disappoint, didn’t give up and will not be forgotten. As (rapper) Emicida would say “With the will, reason and coldness, bro if the bar is heavy, the certainty is to return, like Black Panther”.
Lázaro Ramos, IZA and other famous people mourn the death of Chadwick Boseman
Actor Lázaro Ramos and other Brazilian celebrities used their social networks to mourn the death of actor Chadwick Boseman. In addition to being an actor, the American was a director and screenwriter and was the star of the film Black Panther, which was released in Brazil as Pantera Negra. At age 43, Boseman died after a four-year battle with colon cancer.
Lázaro Ramos highlighted the role of the actor in Black Panther and stated that he inspired in him the will to live in that land to be led by a leader like him.
“He became the face of an ideal world. The face of the dream for a Wakanda. We wanted to live there and be led by him. The leader recently returned in a Spike Lee film “5 bloods” and also full of inspiring lines. @chadwickboseman may wakanda welcome you with open arms. Thank you for being our Black Panther. Thank you for helping us to dream a little more and for being a little bit more proud of who we are. Thank you, we will continue here to scream Wakanda Forever and your face will be together and I will continue here wanting to be T’challa.”
Ramos’s wife, actress Tais Araújo also paid tribute to the artist, stating that the star “not only played a hero”, but also “was a hero in life”.
“Anyone who thinks that Black Panther was just a superhero movie is wrong. For black children of the 80s, 90s and 2000s, references to black characters were always those old clichés: helpers, “that guy who dies first in the horror movie” or even the characters who had questionable behavior and character.” Chadwick Boseman not only played a hero, he was a hero in life making thousands of children have a king as a reference. This brings confidence, improves self-esteem and allows for dreams. What a beautiful legacy! We will never forget. 🖤✊🏾”
A number of non-black entertainers also offered condolences for the actor’s death. Two were actresses Fabíula Nascimento and Regiane Alves. Fabíula highlighted the role of the actor in the Marvel Cinematic Universe film, published a photo of the actor featured as Black Panther and in the caption just wrote: “Wakanda Forever”.
Actress Regiane Alves also highlighted her sadness at the loss of the actor, who, according to her, made one of the last great superhero films she watched.
“How sad the departure of Chadwick Boseman, our Black Panther. He was responsible for one of the last great superhero movies I watched. May he rest in peace, he left a beautiful legacy that empowered millions” pic.twitter.com/R4Lt9fpfq0 – Regiane Alves (@RegianeAlves) August 29, 2020
Singer Iza was another who highlighted the Black Panther film and echoed the film’s battle cry: “Wakanda Forever, my king”, she wrote.
Actor João Vicente, on the other hand, limited himself to publishing a photo of the actor. In the legend, a black heart, representing mourning.
Singer Ludmilla also highlighted the actor’s representation in the film. “You continue to shine and represent our crown in its most majestic form. Wakanda lives! “
Actress Sheron Menezes republished Iza’s post and said the public lost another hero.
“We lost another Hero …. . #Repost @iza (@get_repost) ??? Wakanda forever rest in peace, king!!!”
Singer Thiaguinho also used his social network to say goodbye to the star. “Go with God and thank you for reminding us that we are super heroes! We will never forget you! We will continue fighting here.”
Go with God and thank you for reminding us that we are super heroes! We will never forget you! We will continue fighting here… Chadwick Boseman?? WAKANDA FOREVER