FILE - This July 21, 2014 file photo shows actor Chadwick Boseman posing for a portrait in New York. Boseman, who played Black icons Jackie Robinson and James Brown before finding fame as the regal Black Panther in the Marvel cinematic universe, has died of cancer. His representative says Boseman died Friday, Aug. 28, 2020 in Los Angeles after a four-year battle with colon cancer. He was 43. (Photo by Dan Hallman/Invision/AP, File)

FILE - This July 21, 2014 file photo shows actor Chadwick Boseman posing for a portrait in New York. Boseman, who played Black icons Jackie Robinson and James Brown before finding fame as the regal Black Panther in the Marvel cinematic universe, has died of cancer. His representative says Boseman died Friday, Aug. 28, 2020 in Los Angeles after a four-year battle with colon cancer. He was 43. (Photo by Dan Hallman/Invision/AP, File)

Chadwick Boseman’s death leaves saddening mark on rough 2020

The actor died at the age of 43 in his home in Los Angeles after he privately battled colon cancer for four years

Kobe Bryant. Rep. John Lewis. And now, Chadwick Boseman.

So far, 2020 has been marred with bad news and tragedy with the deaths of several popular Black icons including Bryant, Lewis and recently Boseman, who died Friday. All three were viewed as leaders in their respective fields of sports, politics and film — places where people, particularly in the Black community, have often looked for inspiration during a year of racial tension and protests against the police brutality of unarmed Black people.

But for many, the loss of another major figure such as Boseman is taking a toll. The actor, who starred in the blockbuster superhero Marvel film “Black Panther,” shockingly died at the age of 43 in his home in Los Angeles after he privately battled colon cancer for four years.

“These are pillars in our community,” Rev. Al Sharpton said. “In times of instability, you depend on pillars. It’s bad enough when there’s a storm outside and you hear the lightning and thunder. It gets worse when the pillars that you’re building and standing on (are) shaking. It’s like they’re chipping away at our foundation. The very building is shaking down, because the things that undergird and protect us from the storms are being removed.”

Sharpton called Boseman an important pillar that humanized several Black historical trailblazers in his roles — including colour-line breaking baseball star Jackie Robinson, legendary singer James Brown and the first African American U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall. Boseman’s family said he endured “countless surgeries and chemotherapy” while portraying King T’Challa of Wakanda in the Oscar-nominated “Black Panther,” a film that proved a person of colour could lead in a successful superhero film.

“For him to pass at this time when we are disproportionately affected by COVID and have all of these attacks by law enforcement, and him being the symbol bringing us to Wakanda, it’s just a blow,” Sharpton said. “To hear that our superhero who projected a positive light was now gone, it was a gut blow.”

Boseman was elevated to a stage that many Black actors don’t get the chance to occupy, said Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James. And his ability to be “transcendent” on that stage brought a comic book character to life for many in the Black community.

“Even though we knew that it was like a fictional story, it actually felt real. It actually felt like we finally had our Black superhero and nobody could touch us. So to lose that, it’s sad in our community,” James said, lamenting on the loss of “the Black Panther and the Black Mamba in the same year.”

In January, Bryant died in a helicopter crash involving eight others including his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna. Lewis died in July after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer last year.

Other notable deaths this year include actress Naya Rivera, civil rights leader C.T. Vivian and music executive Andre Harrell.

“The year 2020 has been up and down for everybody,” Milwaukee Bucks player Giannis Antetokounmpo said, adding that Boseman left “so much behind.”

ALSO READ: Man shot by police in Wisconsin no longer handcuffed to hospital bed

“It’s a lot to unpack,” said Oklahoma City Thunder guard Chris Paul. “Chadwick was a special guy. I think everyone took it hard, especially the Black community. That was one of our black superheroes. I think ‘Black Panther’ was something so powerful, for myself along with my kids to see a superhero that looks like them and the way that he played it with such class and elegance. That was tough.”

Activist Martin Luther King III called Boseman’s death another “great loss.” But he encourages people not to lose hope even in a year of tumult.

“We could easily say ‘Oh my God. This is the most terrible year that existed.’ But I choose not to say that,” said the son of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. “Our ancestors had to go through so, so much. And yet, we’re still here. We are nowhere where we need to be, but we are always making progress and moving ahead.”

Gil Robertson, the co-founder and president of the African American Film Critics Association, said Black people are at a critical crossroads of their survival in America.

“We’re getting it from all sides of the fort,” Robertson said. “We’re losing these strong men. These men who operated with a level of integrity. A level of authenticity. I find all of this alarming. I hope that our community can really come together. … Not just for one cause. Just to make a consistent effort to rehabilitate our community.”

___

AP Sports Writer Brian Mahoney contributed to this report from Lake Buena Vista, Florida.

___

Jonathan Landrum Jr., The Associated Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Cancer

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Ladysmith’s Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue Station 29 responded to the fire. (Gerry Beltgens photo)
Boat catches fire in Ladysmith harbour

A large boat caught fire on the morning of Saturday, Feb. 27

(Black Press file photo)
COVID-19 outbreak at Wexford Creek home in Nanaimo declared over

Social visits resume at south Nanaimo facility today, Feb. 27, says Island Health

(News Bulletin file)
RDN warns residents not to give financial info over phone

Resident hung up and called RDN after receiving call for credit card information

(Black Press file)
Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools reports COVID-19 exposure at Cedar Elementary

School district says Island Health has completed contact tracing

A crossover utility vehicle smashed through the front of a business on Bowen Road on Friday evening. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
Vehicle smashes all the way into business on Nanaimo’s Bowen Road

No serious injuries reported after incident at Venue Financial Centres

BC Ferries experienced heavy traffic on Feb. 27 following cancellations the day before due to strong winds and adverse weather. (Black Press Media file photo)
BC Ferries sailings fill up quickly after Friday cancellations due to high winds

Waits expected on Swartz Bay-Tsawwassen route, Horseshoe Bay-Departure Bay route

Pig races at the 145th annual Chilliwack Fair on Aug. 12, 2017. Monday, March 1, 2021 is Pig Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Feb. 28 to March 6

Pig Day, Canadian Bacon Day and Grammar Day are all coming up this week

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson presents bill to delay B.C.’s budget as late as April 30, and allow further spending before that, B.C. legislature, Dec. 8, 2020. (Hansard TV)
How big is B.C.’s COVID-19 deficit? We’ll find out April 20

More borrowing expected as pandemic enters second year

Several BC Ferries sailings are cancelled Friday due to adverse weather. (Black Press Media File)
All B.C. Ferries sailings cancelled due to winds, adverse weather

Adverse weather causes cancellations across several BC Ferries routes

Wayne Allen's graduation photo from Chemainus Secondary School. (Photo submitted)
Brother charged with murder in Vancouver Island teenager’s Ontario death

Jesse James Allen stands accused in the death of Wayne Allen, a 2020 Chemainus Secondary grad

A 50-year-old man was stabbed in an altercation that started with a disagreement about physical distancing. (File photo)
Argument about physical distancing leads to stabbing in Nanaimo

Suspect arrested on Gabriola Island an hour after incident Wednesday, Feb. 24

British Columbia provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry arrives to view the Murals of Gratitude exhibition in Vancouver, on Friday, July 3, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Death threats mount against Dr. Bonnie Henry, sparking condemnation from Horgan, Dix

Henry has become a staple on televisions in homes across British Columbia since January 2020

Doctors and counsellors warn of an increase in panic attacks, anxiety, depression and suicide ideas between ages 10 to 14, in Campbell River. ( Black Press file photo)
Extended pandemic feeding the anxieties of B.C.’s youth

Parents not sure what to do, urged to reach out for help

Most Read