By Kelsey Stone
Summer is coming to a tragic closing as we lost award-winning actor, Chadwick Boseman, this weekend. The actor succumbs to colon cancer at the age of 43, which he had been battling in silence. An official statement was released on the actor’s Instagram page and the family asked for everyone to respect the family’s privacy. The actor was known for his stellar roles in 42, Marshall, Get On Up, and Da 5 Bloods, as well as his beloved, world-renowned role as T’Challa in Black Panther.
Social media flooded with the mourning, support, and love for the actor, as well as remembering his cultural impact and the impression of his role in Black Panther left on young kids. Others used this moment to remind everyone that we don’t know what others may be going through and we need to be more kind to everyone (with some people of course making rebuttals staring it shouldn’t take a celebrity death to remind us to be kind). Times like this make people question and wonder how someone most have never met can make many feel emotional around the world. This is quite common when it comes to celebrity deaths and I’m surprised no one has explained it in depth.
I believe we as a society become immersed in the death of a celebrity because celebrities are in a sense are a reflection of us. They’re not some mythical creatures from an exotic land, they’re regular humans just like us who experience injustice and setbacks. Somehow they still manage to become important figures and impact people on a global level. They’ve been given a platform that most dream of having. What makes it even better is their platform has played a role in many of our lives.
Although there is a slim chance we will meet our favorite celebrities, or be within the same distance as them, sometimes just watching them or listening to them can motive someone and create phenomenal memories. I write this as we recently celebrate the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, the 19th anniversary of Aaliyah’s passing, what would have been Kobe Bryant’s 42nd birthday, and what would have been 62nd birthday (all within a week span). Ironically, all events and people I mentioned have had an impact on my life even though I’ve never met them. Obviously being black, everyone who was involved in the March on Washington had an impact on me. Through history classes and documentaries, I felt the energy and passion of those who fought for my liberation and rights as an African American in this country, including Martin Luther King Jr. When Congressman John Lewis passed and I saw his funeral on TV, I felt this presence as if everything was going to be ok. Seeing such an outpouring of love for him was reassuring. Following him until his passing and learning about him, it was powerful yet pleasing to know he was a real-life superhero for the black community. That will always leave an impression on me.
As a kid, I remember looking at Kobe Bryant and Aaliyah with such admiration. Aaliyah had a style and grace that inspirations me to this day. Her music and voice, in my opinion, is timeless and shaped music for what it is today. Even her acting roles were of quality and I thought “what can’t this girl do?”. Kobe was such a stellar basketball player and to this day one of my favorites. Seeing him on the court inspired you, even if you weren’t a basketball player. His determination and work ethic became a standard for anyone who wanted to change the world yet he had one of those “I’m smiling cause you’re smiling” type of presence.
Michael, man, Michael Jackson is the standard. Period. Like any person in the black community, I grew up with his songs playing at every family function. There was always one person imitating his moves. I remember as a kid seeing the 30th Anniversary Special on TV and it was one of the first times I saw the true meaning “the sky’s the limit”. Michael reached a level of fame and success I don’t think anyone can recreate again.
Whether it’s a singer, an athlete, or an actor. Whether it’s someone who passed away 20+ years ago or someone recent like Chadwick Boseman, I believe a part of dealing with celebrity passings and learning why we react the way we react is by dealing with the mental health aspect of it. We need to have a better understanding of how art connects with us and inspires us to live the life we all live now. So when we lose a beloved celebrity, it doesn’t become a question or confusion, it’s becomes a place of understanding and love.