The world did not know until the announcement of Chadwick Boseman’s death on August 28th that the star had been battling colon cancer since 2016. Boseman kept the details of his private life private. In public, he wowed audiences with blockbuster performances in Black Panther, 42, and Marshall. He also knew how to harness the power of social media to highlight the values, opinions, and initiatives that were important to him.
After a four-year fight with cancer, Boseman perhaps knew his time on Earth was limited and that makes his recent social contributions all the more compelling. A glimpse into the star’s posts seems to reveal an account of what truly mattered to him and also reveals an individual with a passion for equality.
Thomas Tull's Operation 42 was an important cause to Boseman
Boseman received attention online for his April 15th Instagram video in support of Thomas Tull’s Operation 42, which donated millions in personal protective equipment to hospitals that service African American communities. He wrote, “I am hearing stories of desperation from people all over the country, and we know our communities are suffering the most and urgently need help. Celebrating #JackieRobinsonDay with the launch of Thomas Tull’s #Operation42, a donation of $4.2 million in personal protective equipment (PPE) to hospitals that service the African American Communities who have been hit the hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic. Thank you, Jackie, for refusing to accept the world as it is, for showing us that we can make a difference.”
Unfortunately, Boseman’s appearance may have overshadowed the actual message, as fans seemed to be concerned and obsessed with the star’s recent weight loss (via Insider). Despite his illness, Boseman continued to be a source of goodwill and inspiration in the months leading up to his death.
Chadwick Boseman spoke out against racial injustice
On June 24th, amid Black Lives Matter protests sparked by police brutality and the deaths of George Floyd and countless other Black men and women, Boseman took to social media in support of BLDPWR.com, which is a non-partisan, grassroots organization that, according to their website, seeks to challenge injustice through narrative storytelling. The list of demands Boseman referenced in the post points to banishing systemic racism in Hollywood by divesting from police and anti-Black content and investing in anti-racism content and community.
These ideals were further supported in Boseman’s June 19th post recognizing Junteenth — a day that commemorates the end of slavery in the United States. Boseman included a call to action with the caption, “Lift up and amplify Black voices. Support Black owned businesses. Reach back and mentor,” adding, “155 years later, let’s all try to learn from our past so we can create a better future together. Not just today. Everyday.” It’s clear Chadwick Boseman had his mind and heart set on unification and a better, brighter future for America. His final post seemed to drive this point home, in a political way.
Chadwick Boseman's final post encourages fans to act
In his final post on social media before his death, Chadwick Boseman sent a clear message to followers: Vote. The photo he posted on August 11, just after Kamala Harris was announced as Joe Biden’s running mate for the 2020 election, showed Boseman and Harris smiling together at a Freedom for Immigrants event. He captioned the photo, “YES @KamalaHarris!” and hashtagged it #WhenWeAllVote. When We All Vote is a non-profit, non-partisan voting rights organization launched by former first lady Michelle Obama, Tom Hanks, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Janelle Monae, Chris Paul, Faith Hill, and Tim McGraw. Chadwick Boseman was an ambassador for the organization (via Essence). The post has received over 1.5 million likes on Instagram to date, so it seems the message has been received. If Boseman’s attempts to inspire change on social media don’t paint a picture of the man he was, consider his 2018 Howard University commencement address.
Chadwick Boseman had inspiring words about change
Two years before the end of his life, Chadwick Boseman gave a commencement speech at his alma mater, Howard University. Boseman referenced his “need to speak the truth to power” and praised the graduating class for a nine-day protest that had occurred at the school a month earlier, prompted by a financial aid scandal that misdirected funds intended for students in need. Boseman said, “You received the majority of your demands, making a significant impact on those who came after you. As is often the case, those that follow most often enjoy the results of the progress you gained,” adding, “Everything that you fought for was not for yourself. It was for those that come after.” (via The Washington Post).
As Boseman lived out his final days, continuing to bring awareness to social and racial injustice, it seems he fully embodied that belief. The things Chadwick Boseman fought for would not be achieved in his lifetime but he was certainly making progress towards a better future for the rest of us.
Fans will see what Boseman was working on in his professional life in his final film, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, which is currently in post-production (via IMDb).
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