Leaving a lasting impact before you go

Published 6:25 pm Friday, September 4, 2020

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More than two years ago, back before the pandemic made going to the movies a bit of a health hazard, I drove to my usual movie theater early on a Saturday morning. That’s my usual routine when I want to see a movie in theaters: catch the earliest Saturday show and avoid the crowds. It’s just me, a few other moviegoers, a handful of ushers, and the big screen.

What was different about that particular day in February 2018, however, was that there was already a crowd when I arrived. The first showing was already sold out! I quickly bought a ticket for the next showing and slipped into the best seat available, waiting for more than an hour along with the rest of the excited people in the theater.

I’ve been to plenty of crowded movie theater showings. Plenty of blockbuster films on opening weekend evenings. But I’ve never seen it so crowded on a Saturday morning where it’s too early to even want to buy popcorn. So many people, myself included, were thrilled to finally be able to see this film.

The movie I went to see that day was “Black Panther.” The much-anticipated entry into the Marvel Cinematic Universe since the character first leapt onto the screen in “Captain America: Civil War” back in 2016. It starred Chadwick Boseman as T’Challa, the young king of Wakanda who takes up the Black Panther mantle as the protector of the country after the untimely death of his father.

I enjoyed the movie immensely, as I wrote in a column afterwards, for the complex character-driven story. T’Challa had to learn to juggle how to be a good leader, how to do the right thing, and how to deal with the sense of loss. I still think that anyone can find some aspect of his struggle relatable in some way.

It was a movie that made an impact on me, and is still vividly memorable more than two years after I first watched it. And a lot of the reason why is because of Boseman’s performance.

Tragically, Chadwick Boseman passed away last week after a four-year battle with colon cancer. He was 43. Choosing to keep his personal struggles private, almost no one knew he was sick until the announcement of his death. He continued to film several movies in between his cancer treatments, a fact which is both awe-inspiring and heartbreaking.

Boseman left behind an outstanding legacy with his acting work. He didn’t just inspire audiences with his fictional characters; he also brought several real people to life on the movie screen. He was baseball star Jackie Robinson, singer James Brown, and US Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall at different times in his too-short career. I must admit I’ve not yet seen these films, but I have no doubt they’re every bit as good as his other performances.

Plenty of co-stars and friends expressed their grief after the news broke. The most profound for me to read was the statement from Michael B. Jordan, his co-star from “Black Panther.”

“Everything you’ve given the world… the legends and heroes that you’ve shown us we are… will live on forever. But the thing that hurts the most is that I now understand how much of a legend and hero YOU are. Through it all, you never lost sight of what you loved most.” Jordan wrote in a long post on Instagram.

“I’m dedicating the rest of my days to live the way you did. With grace, courage, and no regrets,” he concluded.

As I was reading more about Boseman’s life this past week, I found a quote from his speech at Howard University’s 2018 graduation ceremony. As a former graduate of the university himself, he was chosen as the commencement speaker that year.

“Whatever you choose for a career path, remember, the struggles along the way are only meant to shape you for your purpose,” he said on the graduation stage. “When I dared to challenge the system that would relegate us to victims and stereotypes with no clear historical backgrounds, no hopes or talents, when I questioned that method of portrayal, a different path opened up for me, the path to my destiny.”

Profound words from someone who clearly thought a lot about his place in the world and the impact he wanted to leave behind.

Holly Taylor is a Staff Writer at Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact her at holly.taylor@r-cnews.com or 252-332-7206.