Why Chadwick Boseman’s Life Inspires Fellow HU Bison Like Me To Live Out Loud
For our brother Chadwick, we pulled up often.
September 03, 2020 at 6:07 pm
To my Bison brother, Chadwick, your loss feels like we are mourning family, because we are. To be a Howard University Bison is to instantly be accepted into a family of thousands of sisters and brothers spanning the entire globe. When we scream “H-U!,” and another answers “You know!,” the call and response is a familial tribal call that drips with instant love and protection.
In the days since his passing, my social media timelines have been flooded with tributes to Chadwick Boseman. Many of our fellow Bison shared memories of him, reminiscing on his big laugh and his dignified southern accent. Others shared photos of him from school when he was simply “Chad.” Countless stories of friends hanging out with him in New York or Los Angeles. Chadwick has been, and will always be, a tangible and constant presence in the lives of his Bison brothers and sisters.
Anything a Bison does, we will support in numbers — both in our presence and our dollars. So for our brother Chadwick, we pulled up often. For every movie premiere, we filled theaters. For every interview, we shared it on social media. For every award show, we watched and screamed “H-U!” as he walked across the stage. Because that's what we do; we pull up and support each other. Chadwick was ours and he was loved.
The strength of Chadwick’s connection to Howard was apparent in ABC’s tribute to Chadwick on Sunday night. There were countless references to Howard University, beginning with the very true remark from Marc Lamont Hill: “People from Howard will always let you know they went to Howard.”
When Chadwick became T’Challa, King of Wakanda, to the world, Howard University was already behind him because he was already our king. Chadwick wore the crown, proofed by the fire of Howard, with such grace and dignity. He was a shining example of leadership, excellence, truth and service. In narrating our stories through his craft, he provided the world a language to acknowledge, hear and speak about the significance of Black lives.
He had the Howard swag — the power of being “young, gifted and black” and drawing attention to the culture with every move he made. He spoke the Howard language — words of affirmation and confirmation, knowing at all times who he was and whose he was. He had the Howard hustle — the determination that turns “no” into “yes,” powered by the unofficial HU motto coined by our brother, Diddy — “Can't stop, won't stop.” To the end, he had Howard in his heart, which shone through his final tweet in support of our fellow Bison sister, Kamala Harris, for her nomination as the Democratic Vice Presidential candidate.
When Chadwick returned to the Hilltop to deliver the 2018 commencement speech, he imparted wisdom to alumna and the graduating class alike. He reminded us all of our duty to Howard when he said, “Everything you fought for, it was not for yourself. It was for those who’ll come after.” He patterned his career with these words, recognizing that every step is made with gratitude and reverence for the legacy of those who have walked before you and deep enough to offer a path to those who follow behind you.
With this in mind, he shared the journey of his role with a major soap opera from which ultimately he was fired after challenging the show about stereotypical themes embedded in his character. He credited his Howard education for the conscience that pushed him to speak up. It was his Howard education that let him know that he would be OK even if he was subsequently blackballed. As he said, “Sometimes you need to feel the pain and sting of defeat to activate the real passion and” — quoting Jeremiah 29:11 — “purpose that God predestined inside of you.”
Well-established in his acting career, Chadwick shared the story of Howard alum and acting professor, Phylicia Rashad, calling Denzel Washington to send him and others to the British Academy to pursue an acting fellowship. It was more than a cool backstory for us; instead, it reminded us of our commitment to one another. Bison take care of one another and push each other forward into greatness. “Purpose crosses discipline,” as he shared in the commencement speech. “Purpose is an essential element of you. It is the reason you are on the planet at this particular time in history. Your very existence is wrapped up in the things you are here to fulfill.”
With every role he played, he was pushing the culture forward into greatness. He was taking care of his own, every single person who looks like him and dreams like him. He was our king and, like so many others, left us way too soon. It’s hard to type that he has transitioned from the hilltop to the mountaintop. But there he sits as he watches over us with our ancestors and heroes, some of whom he portrayed on screen.
So, to honor my brother Chadwick, I will continue to live my life out loud — Black and unapologetically. I will continue to push forward, living out my ancestors’ wildest dreams and fulfilling my purpose. I will continue to take care of my own, wrapping the future generations in my arms and walking with them toward the promised land. To borrow Chadwick’s words, “God bless you.”
I love you, Chadwick. Howard forever!