Chadwick Boseman ‘was a real-life black superhero’

Composite of Black Panther super-fans with Chadwick Boseman Image copyright Getty Images/BBC

“King T’Challa, the way he carried himself, he was the embodiment of a King.”

The character played by Chadwick Boseman in Marvel’s 2018 film Black Panther has left a lasting impact on young black people.

Chadwick died on Friday aged 43 after battling colon cancer for four years – prompting floods of tributes for Chadwick the man, as well as the character he became synonymous with.

There are numerous reasons both are so loved.

“The fact that he was actually African – and had an African accent – was another reason for me to be proud of where I’m from: to be black, to be African,” Andrew O’Day tells Radio 1 Newsbeat about King T’Challa.

‘We are so much more than starving people’

The 28-year-old says T’Challa was “like a mirror” for young black people in the UK.

“You could see yourself in him. A lot of our parents were born in Africa, so there’s a deeper connection to King T’Challa.”

As the film’s director Ryan Coogler put it, “the ancestors spoke through him”.

Image copyright Getty Images

Image caption Ryan and Chadwick at the 2016 Comic-Con in San Diego

Aharoun-Jordan Adeniyan agrees and says T’Challa had “a sense of regality”.

“It’s amazing to see an African portrayal of royalty. Not a scammer or something negative that you so often see.

“Seeing that reminded me and showcased to the world that we are so much more than starving people.”

Black Panther broke from the “stereotypes people like to show” about black people, Aharoun says.

“We are so much more than people see generally. The movie goes to show just how much representation matters and the power of positive representation.”

Image copyright Aharoun-Jordan

Image caption Aharoun calls Chadwick an “immense force” in black storytelling

The film inspired Aharoun to “want to tell black stories”. Both he and Andrew say Black Panther’s relatability made it stand out.

“Captain America and Iron Man have always been my favourite Avengers, but there’s a certain connection that you get with Black Panther as a black Brit that you won’t get with the others,” Andrew says. “We didn’t grow up with black superheroes.”

He enjoyed the film so much he paid to see it three times when it came out, while Aharoun says it was the best “cinema experience” he’s ever had. He felt “in sync”.

“All the jokes landed, the references landed.

“I re-watched it yesterday to take him in again. And it holds up, it’s so wonderful. It was made with love and you can feel that.”

Image copyright Andrew O’Day

Image caption Andrew hadn’t seen a film about a black superhero done to the standard of Black Panther before

The fictional nation of Wakanda, where the film is set, played a key part.

“They encompassed the whole of Africa so it didn’t really matter where you were from as a black person,” Andrew says. “Whether you’re Nigerian, South Africa, Kenyan, Ghanaian, you can see a piece of your culture in the film.”

‘A real-life black superhero’

Aharoun is an aspiring screenplay writer – but Chadwick will influence more than just his art.

“I remember him visiting children who were terminal with cancer. It’s haunting to think how much he was going through and still thinking about other people.

“That nature of serving others is something I will take on even more.”

He hopes Chadwick’s example of being authentic – which he showed in Black Panther – inspires people to do the same.

“Especially in a world which wants them to minimise themselves.

“Learning about how he passed, and his fight with cancer, has made me realise that he really was a real-life black superhero.”

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