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"Young, Gifted, & Black": Tributes Pour In For Real Life Superhero Chadwick Boseman

Barack Obama praised his stunning impact on Black children everywhere, as Boseman was privately battling colon cancer: "To use that power to give them heroes to look up to; to do it all while in pain – what a use of his years."

Chadwick Boseman attends the 2018 MTV Movie And TV Awards on June 16, 2018, in Santa Monica, California. | Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic via Getty Images
Chadwick Boseman attends the 2018 MTV Movie And TV Awards on June 16, 2018, in Santa Monica, California. | Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic via Getty Images

The loss of Chadwick Boseman, who catapulted to global superstardom after his role as T’Challa in “Black Panther,” is being felt across the cultural consciousness as tributes poured in the day after unexpected news of his death. 

Boseman died from colon cancer at age 43, his family said on Friday night. “He died in his home, with his wife and family by his side,” the statement read. Boseman had not been public about his colon cancer, which he was diagnosed with in 2016.

His family said Boseman “battled with [stage 3 cancer] these last four years as it progressed to stage 4.” During those years, with his private diagnosis, Boseman acted in: “Captain America: Civil War,” “Message from the King,” “Marshall,” “Black Panther,” “Avengers: Infinity War,” “Avengers: Endgame,” “21 Bridges,” and “Da 5 Bloods.”

His family said of his numerous roles during that time period: “all were filmed during and between countless surgeries and chemotherapy.”

Boseman died the same day the MLB was celebrating Jackie Robinson Day, where all players wore his number, 42. Boseman played Robinson in the 2013 film, “42.” He portrayed several other Black icons, including singer James Brown and Thurgood Marshall, the first Black Supreme Court Justice. 

The MLB said it was “devastated by the tragic loss of Chadwick Boseman. His transcendent performance in ‘42’ will stand the test of time and serve as a powerful vehicle to tell Jackie’s story to audiences for generations to come.”

Clint Smith, author and writer for The Atlantic, described watching his young son proudly declaring he was “the Black Panther.” 

“I keep thinking about my 3-year-old in his Black Panther costume. How he wore it almost every day when he got it, refused to take it off ... What Chadwick gave us was immeasurable. What an enormous loss.”

Brian Josephs of VICE News said Boseman “ is a big reason why our kids don't have to wonder about what a Black superhero is.” 

After earning pole position in the Belgian Formula One Grand Prix qualification, Lewis Hamilton gave a “Wakanda Forever” salute. From the car, he said “That one was for Chadwick.”

Soccer player Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang gave a “Wakanda Forever” salute after scoring during Arsenal’s game against Liverpool Saturday. 

The Milwaukee Bucks and Orlando Magic held a moment of silence for Boseman before their game Saturday.

Celebrities and activists including Bernice King, Martin Luther King III, Viola Davis, and Angela Bassett (who played his mother in “Black Panther”) posted messages of gratitude, sadness, and love. Fellow Howard graduate Kamala Harris, as well as Barack and Michelle Obama also posted tributes. 

“You could tell right away that he was blessed. To be young, gifted, and Black; to use that power to give them heroes to look up to; to do it all while in pain – what a use of his years.”

“He, too, knew what it meant to persevere. To summon real strength. And he belongs right there with them as a hero—for Black kids and for all our kids,” Michelle Obama said.

“The Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon” posted a video of when fans described what “Black Panther” means to them — not knowing Boseman was watching. 

The “Black Panther” Twitter account shared a photo of Boseman as T’Challa, saying “Our hearts are broken and our thoughts are with Chadwick Boseman's family. Your legacy will live on forever. Rest In Peace.”

TBS said it planned to air “Black Panther” twice this weekend in his honor. 

After winning Outstanding Performance by a Cast at the 2019 Screen Actors Guild Awards, Boseman gave a moving acceptance speech, saying, “...to be young, gifted, and Black, we all know what it’s like to be told that there is not a place for you to be featured … we know what it’s like to be beneath and not above.” He said “Black Panther” created and exemplified “a world we wanted to see.” 

In 2018, Boseman gave his MTV Movie award to James Shaw Jr., the man who stopped a gunman at a Waffle House. Boseman brought Shaw on stage with him.

Wakanda Forever.