SHAUN KING: Chadwick Boseman and Collective Grief

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August has been a hard month, even when compared to the rest of 2020.

It is a month full of grief, loss and confusion. As the fight against police brutality and white supremacy continues, cases like that of Jacob Blake, a Black man who was shot in the back by police seven times in front of his three young sons, weigh heavily on the Black community. It can be hard to avoid burnout, or going numb completely.

Then, on August 28th, we learned of the death of Chadwick Boseman.

I, like many mourning Chadwick’s passing, didn’t know him personally. Yet his death hit me hard. It just felt like a blow Black America couldn’t take. From Thurgood Marshall to Jackie Robinson, he portrayed some of the most important Black figures in American history. He had already established himself as one of the most iconic actors of all time when he accepted the role as King T'Challa, better known as Black Panther.

Black Panther not only took over the Marvel Universe, but Black culture globally.

My family and I would watch the trailer nearly everyday, sometimes multiple times a day, leading up to the movie’s release. We were awe inspired by what we saw. Depicted in that trailer was Black joy, beauty, magic, and Black people at the front and center of a film about a magical land untouched by the massacres of European colonization.

We dressed up to see it in theaters. We are all huge Marvel fans, so we’re used to huge crowds on opening nights of Marvel movies.

The crowd for Black Panther was like nothing we’d ever seen.

It was the Blackest audience for sure, and easily the most hype. It was clear we’d all been waiting for this moment for months. Kids and adults alike were in full on costumes, while others opted for the dashikis sold on nearly every street corner in Brooklyn. A line had formed of people scrambling to get tickets for screenings that had sold out weeks in advance.

The audience was a very vocal one. We cheered when our hero T’Challa won in battle and fell silent when he was in danger. It is hard for me to put into words the emotions that we experienced as a collective, but it was something akin to watching Obama be sworn into office for the first time. There was so much pride, and Chadwick Boseman was the carrier of it.

He perfectly embodied the superhero Black America needed, which makes his passing that much harder to come to terms with.

In today’s episode, Shaun breaks down just how difficult this month has been, and what we must do to process the pain of it all.