Chadwick Boseman and the importance of community in struggle for justice

Chadwick Boseman and the importance of community in struggle for justice

We can mourn the passing of the talented and thoughtful actor Chadwick Boseman most well known for his groundbreaking role of Black Panther and his personification of the silent strength and light of African American culture through even the harshest situations.  

For children raised in the US and especially Black children, it is wonderful to have representation. If you have that representation when you are young, you don’t have to chase it as an adult, because you realize that representation is only a piece of liberation, and it is a small piece, but children need that. 

Children need to see themselves.

I appreciate and thank Boseman for giving our children what they needed during this challenging time in United States history. 

Stan Lee created Black Panther. He appropriated the Black Power (Lowndes County Freedom Fighting Organization) movement and drenched it in his US capitalism. Stan Lee, rest in peace, was a lifelong progressive and Kennedy Democrat, but his progressive brand was neoliberal, which is right-wing anywhere but the US.

He also pushed exceptionalism. The idea that you can be different, but if you are magical, then it is OK.

Not all of us “different” people have magic.

But I still want to stress that representation is important.

It is important for Black children, white children, Latinx children, and Asian American children see that everyone can embody the tools needed for leadership. Leadership is not the domain of one nation, culture, or gender.

But the strength of the Black community is not the exceptional individual. Exceptionalism is a white supremacist and fascist concept.

Yes, this is the narrative that white supremacy throws upon all of us who have been colonized and settled on its stolen lands, but it is a lie.

White supremacy likes to lift up the voice and identity of one person as the Black community’s voice. But the idea that there is one voice is as fictional as their movies.

Authoritarian leadership is not the Black community. 

This weekend was the 57th Anniversary of the March on Washington. I can’t think of whose march it was. I saw pictures of my Black, white, and Latinx friends at the march, from all over the country. Some rode their bicycles, some drove in caravans, some were part of sororities, and others were part of revolutionary groups. A few groups got there a bit early to catch the tail end of the Republican National Convention to tell the White House’s current resident about the awful job his administration is doing

While the white media will say, the original march was King’s March on Washington. Black people know that it was not King’s march. It was the People’s March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.

Boseman also played Supreme Court Justice Thurman Marshall. I think about the work of the organization that he founded the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. His organization’s work gave the demands of the march legs.

The purpose of the march was to advocate for civil and economic rights. There was a strong class analysis component of the march, one which does not fit the elementary narrative of “it was for the Black people.”

The march was a coalition of civil rights, religious, and labor organizations. The administrative organizing was done by A. Philip Randolph of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters and former publisher of the socialist literary journal the “Messenger” and Bayard Rustin of the famed documentary “Outside Brother,” a documentary that can describe his numerous contributions across the Civil Rights spectrum better than I can in this small space, and it wasn’t just Black and white, there were other people of color there —in the distance, someone held up a sign “Negroes and Puerto Ricans, together for Freedom.” 

The 250,000 people march had  75,000 and 95,000 white people, more multiracial than anything we have now. 

But that barely scratched the surface of who did what during the march and the Civil Rights Movement. Nothing we do is about one person, even Boseman. He was able to be Black Panther, not just because he was an amazing actor, but because he had help and support. He had the support of his parents, community, Howard University, Denzel Washington, Phylicia Rashad, and his wife. And he helped others, and those people will help other people, and even right now, he is still helping other people with his legacy.

The dream is not for a superhero to save us. The goal is that we’ll all be able to work together and cooperatively for a better world.

And when this happens…we will be able to speed up that day when all God’s children, [B]lack men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, ‘Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!‘”

Chadwick Boseman is with the ancestors, and he will always be one of the many that helped make this place better and made little children smile. 

by Teka Lo, Public Intellectuals

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