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33rd Film Independent Spirit Awards

Source: Kurt Krieger – Corbis / Getty

Chadwick Boseman’s presence commanded a salute. When he entered the room, it became second nature for anyone in his eyesight to cross their arms in an “X” and position them across their chest. The man who donned the Black Panther suit wasn’t simply a hero on screen, he was a hero behind the scenes battling his own storyline.

Today, we mourn the loss of one of Hollywood’s most dynamic talents. Boseman succumbed to his battle with stage IV colon cancer and we never even knew he was suffering — making his untimely transition profoundly more difficult to comprehend. How could a superhero die? He was 43.

The announcement of Boseman’s death has sent shockwaves through Hollywood as friends, fans and family remember the iconic actor who played iconic roles like Jackie Robinson in 42, James Brown in Get On Up and T’Challa in Black Panther. Coincidentally, today is Jackie Robinson day.

I was feeding my one-year-old daughter, whose birthday is also today, when the notification crossed my screen. I dismissed it as “fake news” because…Chadwick Boseman? No way. Within an instance, the group chat lit up and it was true. Boseman had died peacefully surrounded by family, his social media page confirmed.

“It is with immeasurable grief that we confirm the passing of Chadwick Boseman,” read the statement that coincided with a report from The Associated Press. “Chadwick was diagnosed with stage III colon cancer in 2016, and battled with it these last 4 years as it progressed to stage IV.”⁣

After dealing with the death of a loved one earlier this week, I felt the air escape my lungs and an ache form in my gut for the second time. Jokes wrapped in the guise of concern over his gaunt appearance in the latter days of his life crossed my mind. Forgive us all.

Boseman filmed Black Panther in 2018, which means he was already entrenched in battle with the disease for two years. And it was his “honor.”

“A true fighter, Chadwick persevered through it all, and brought you many of the films you have come to love so much. From Marshall to Da 5 Bloods, August Wilson’s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom and several more, all were filmed during and between countless surgeries and chemotherapy,” the statement continued.

Heartfelt recounts of Boseman’s inspirational and triumphant nature flooded social media. In a statement to EW, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom co-star Denzel Washington remembered the beloved thespian as a “gentle soul.”

“He was a gentle soul and a brilliant artist, who will stay with us for eternity through his iconic performances over his short yet illustrious career. God bless Chadwick Boseman.”

Photos of Boseman visiting terminally ill children at St. Judes and video of him embracing fans depict the true caliber of his being. Children were perhaps most impacted by Boseman’s portrayal of Black Panther. For the first time in their lives, the most important character in the world was Black. He looked like them, which meant one day they could grow up to be the same.

But more than his contribution to the Marvel cinematic world, Boseman — who suffered in silence but made each day memorable — taught us to live graciously and robustly.

He is survived by his wife Taylor Simone Ledward who he married shortly before his passing. They were last seen at an NBA game in February.

Wakanda Forever.

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