I had just crawled into bed when I saw the ticker on my phone that Chadwick Boseman had passed away after a four-year battle with colon cancer. Within seconds of reading those words on my screen, the tears came flooding down, and I didn’t know how to make them stop. I wept and wept for days afterward. That whole weekend was a blur of tears and sleep and more tears. I’d find myself scrolling on social media or playing with my kids or watching a movie, and then all of a sudden I’d be weeping again with no warning. And I mean ugly crying — the kind that causes your soul to ache from the anguish ripping through your heart and body.
Perhaps it’s no surprise that my young son noticed I was upset. He wanted to know why his momma was so sad, but that was a conversation I didn’t want to have. How do you tell your five-year-old son that one of his heroes has died? I had just talked with him days before about the shooting of Jacob Blake. My husband and I had been discussing it aloud over dinner, and he had wanted to know what had happened. We tried our best to explain the situation to him in age-appropriate language, but even still, his face immediately looked terrified as he asked us, “Would the police ever do that to me? Would they ever do that to my daddy?”
There is too much pain and exhaustion from weeks and months of hearing about yet another Black man shot in the streets — George Floyd. Ahmaud Arbery. Breonna Taylor. Mike Ramos. Jacob Blake. And countless more.
However, the passing of Chadwick Boseman hit on another level. For the Black community especially but also for so many people of color, he was the king of our imagined future. In the movie, Black Panther, Boseman plays T’Challa, the king of the fictional Wakanda, an African country untainted by the scars of colonialism, racism, subjugation, and oppression. His steady disposition and even-temperedness is guided as much by his moral center as by his physical strength. Under his steady rule, his people thrive and flourish. It’s hard to even put into words all of the ways that this movie and this person has impacted me as an Indian American woman, but of this there is no doubt: Boseman was my superhero too. He embodied the dream of how this world could be different and the type of leader who could serve at its helm.
This is why losing Boseman opened a floodgate of grief. His screen entrance as T’Challa gave me hope in a world torn apart by racism, injustice, and violence, and the idea that he was no longer among us was a terrible thought. I felt alone again, and this became my moment of wondering if I should give up — not the months of anti-Asian racism I’ve been experiencing this year, not the police brutality and systemic injustice against Black and brown communities, but this moment. Boseman’s death was my tipping point.
In the days and weeks now following Boseman’s death, I’ve continued to grieve, but I’m also clinging to hope. To me, the power of Boseman’s T’Challa was his embodiment of a life that was Christ-like. His position and actions as king of Wakanda always made me think longer and deeper about the person to whom he pointed for me, namely Jesus. I mourn the good and the beautiful that T’Challa embodied, while also reminding myself that he made me look toward the one who truly is the king of our hearts. Jesus is not merely the king of our imagined futures; He is the true King, who will bring a kingdom that is incomparably greater than Wakanda or any real or imagined kingdom.
In Revelation 5, Jesus is presented as a lion-like Lamb. He is our authoritative King and the most powerful of all. However, the way this Lion exercises His sovereignty and power is not through brute force but through lamb-like sacrifice. The recurring imagery of lambs is one of tender, gentle creatures. It is Jesus as the Lamb of God, who speaks to us, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).
T’Challa, similarly, is a lamb-like panther, who is willing to give up his life for his people. In the movie, Black Panther, he says, “I will not abandon someone to die, when I have the means to save his life.” I love this quote because it makes T’Challa a figure that points to Christ. Jesus is the greater Black Panther, who sacrificed Himself for His people to bring true freedom, liberation, and citizenship into the kingdom of heaven.
The hope of a better future is not lost. The hope of a King who can usher us into this better future is not lost either. And I’m clinging to this truth today.Leave a Comment