…and then Chadwick died
Actor Chadwick Boseman’s death from colon cancer struck hard. The news of his demise at the tender age of 43, deepened my funk, cemented my sense of dread and despair. It was a dark reminder during a particularly dark time.
The night before Boseman’s death was announced, the Republican National Convention (RNC) had just concluded. The entire four-day spectacle was laced with a sickening stream of unsubstantiated, unmitigated, out-and-out lies.
Yet, it worked. According to a recent CNBC/Change Research poll, the approval of President Donald Trump’s handling of Covid-19 rose, while concerns about the coronavirus fell in six 2020 swing states.
With more than 180,000 deaths, how in the hell could concerns about the still growing virus fall anywhere in America?
I was grieving, what seemed to me, a country on life support. The idea that a president’s popularity could rise after his utter incompetence fueled so many deaths, is mind-blowing. How could a man who claimed “victory” because more people hadn’t died, possibly be celebrated and supported my millions?
It was further proof that a more insidious cancer had indeed metastasized in America’s bloodstream. It was validation that the growing tumor of that cancer, Donald Trump, the great (reality show) conman could lie his way into a second term. I was deeply saddened by the possibility that race, fearmongering, and manipulated division during the convention would gift a monster four more years in office.
Blacks are 13 percent of the U.S. population but make up more than 32 percent of COVID-19 deaths. Roughly 60,000 black people have died from the virus. Since early March, we’ve had to deal with the double whammy of disproportionate deaths from the coronavirus and police brutality.
The Nation, took aim at blacks who spoke at the “Republican National Infomercial” like former NFL players, Herschel Walker and Jack Brewer, Sen. Tim Scott and Republican congressional nominee, Kim Klacik:
“The Black speakers, like the rest of the Republican Party, offer no agenda to extend economic or social opportunities to people of color. They offer no policy prescriptions to address police brutality or violence against Black people. They offer no rebuttals to the assaults on voting rights or immigrant rights the Trump administration engages in. And they’ve been as silent about the disproportionate toll Covid-19 has taken on communities of color as Herman Cain.”
America’s streets have overflowed with those protesting the killings of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and others. On the day before the GOP convention, we watched, in real time, a Wisconsin police officer empty his gun into the back of yet another black man, Jacob Blake.
And then, “T'Challa,” the character Bosman played in “Black Panther,” died.
It was a crushing blow to an already crushed people, especially young, black people. For many of them, Boseman represented fierce black pride, dignity, and the power of unity. His film portrayals of Thurgood Marshall, Jackie Robinson and James Brown "brought history to life" said Martin Luther King III.
"As Black Panther, he was also a superhero to many,” King added. “And despite his 4 year-long battle with cancer, he kept fighting and he kept inspiring."
On Instagram, the NAACP also paid tribute, saying that Boseman showed us “how to 'Say it Loud’” and “how to walk as a King, without losing the common touch” and he showed “us just how powerful we are."
Some might say it’s inappropriate to associate the death of a beloved actor with the RNC and Trump’s political chicaneries. I respectfully disagree. Through his movie roles and public speeches, he was a living affirmation that “black lives matter,” that being “young, gifted and black” was a needed recipe in the ongoing fight for justice, dignity and equity.
I recognize the power of symbolism and, for me, Boseman symbolized “hope.” In 2018, while giving the commencement speech at Howard University, his alma mater, Boseman told the throng of young graduates that "the struggles along the way are only meant to shape you for your purpose."
I recognize the power of symbolism and, for me, Boseman symbolized “hope.”
I maintain that the tragedy of Trump and all the related struggles are shaping us, preparing us for something bigger than ourselves.
Back in June, I wrote a commentary titled: “The Gift of COVID”:
“Yes, the pandemic has unleashed great pain, heartbreak, death, and disaster amongst us,” I wrote. “But it has also given us new perspective, a new outlook and, hopefully, a new way to explore our inherent commonalities.”
The eternal optimist in me believed those words. I believed that we have new opportunities under a new sense of awareness and empathy, that we could collectively steer this country back to decency and some sense of normalcy.
But then, Chadwick died.