Marvel’s new series “What If…?” is giving viewers new stories about its heroes. With this new series comes a surprising gift for viewers, Chadwick Boseman’s last performance as beloved hero T’Challa. For many of us, this was an incredibly bittersweet moment. We got to see T’Challa again after so long. Sadly it is the last time we will see this hero who meant so much to all of us. Seeing T’Challa on-screen again reminded so many of us of what Black Panther meant for us. How we felt the first time we watched it. How incredible it was to see a Black man as a superhero, and to see Black people as powerful. There is no Black Panther without Chadwick Boseman.
Although Chadwick was most well known by many as the Black Panther he was more than just T’Challa. He was more than Jackie Robinson, Thurgood Marshall, James Brown, or any of the other iconic characters he portrayed on screen. Chadwick Boseman played so many of Black history’s heroes, but he was also a hero all on his own. He deeply considered the roles that he took turning down roles that he felt did not advance the Black community. He said when done right, stories don’t just allow people to escape what they are going through. Stories give them hope. And that he did, he gave us hope through so many characters, even at times when we had so little of it.
Because of the roles Chadwick chose and how incredibly talented and caring he was, film and television have changed. Black Panther showed the entire world what Black people are capable of and he was a huge part of that. He made everyone around him want to do better. To be the best versions of themselves, and create truly meaningful art. He cared so much about the Black community even offscreen. His last posts on social media encouraged people to vote, support the Black Lives Matter movement. He even called attention to Black and Latino essential workers who were most at risk for Covid-19. He gave us everything he had, fighting through racial discrimination and cancer to give us just a little bit of hope.
“In my culture death is not the end. It’s more of a stepping off point. You reach out with both hands and Bast and Sekhmet, they lead you into a green veld where you can run forever.” -T’Challa. “What If” has reminded us that in any universe and in any timeline T’Challa will always be our hero. That Chadwick Boseman will always be our hero. The indomitable spirit of Boseman and the importance of his work lives on not just through this posthumous performance, but in all of his work and in the hearts of everyone he touched. Boseman showed us time and time again that we could be the hero in our own stories. His final Marvel performance continues to inspire us to be the best versions of ourselves, and that there is no place that we do not belong.