Chadwick Boseman: South Carolina pays its respects to one of its dearest

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In the short time in which he had, Chadwick Boseman's impact on cinema was profound. While many are most well known for the number of roles in which they take, Boseman's career reads of a man in keeping with his roots, aware of cinemas ability to both captivate and inspire. Through his performances as James Brown in Get On Up, Jackie Robinson in 42 and of course the superhero T'Challa in Black Panther he wore the capes of those, including even the fictional, that were of significance in black households within the US and his native South Carolina.

These stories, of course, warrant their own spotlight respectively, but when weaved together, they speak to Boseman's sense of awareness and appreciation for black iconography. More than this though, is that by bringing these roles to the big screen, Boseman (unbeknown to him) was sowing the threads of his own cape. He was creating a career defined by a unique sense of perspective and appreciation of the art. His role as T'Challa (The Black Panther) in the MCU is one which is particularly worthy of merit and resonated with black cinema-goers the world over.

His role as T'Challa established Boseman as one of Cinema's leading actors.

It is little wonder then that news of his death was received with such despondency. Sadness owing partly to what he had come to represent. Aside from the roles chronicling iconic figures was the fact that he was breaking down barriers as a leading black actor in Hollywood. Boseman had previously mentioned the difficulty in financing movies with a black lead outside the usual elite of Will Smith or Denzel Washington. By succeeding in the MCU as part of the Avengers franchise and as The Black Panther he was able to showcase the hunger which exists for black led fictional storytelling. It demonstrated that the desire for black cinema stretched beyond the historical retelling of slavery and black trauma. This is not to say there is not a space for it - there is. All of our stories can and should be told but it provided us with a glimpse into what else could be.

Alongside Lupita Nyongo, John Boyega, Jordan Peele (Director) Ryan Coogler (Director) and many others he formed part of several black actors, actresses and directors beginning to take their seat at the top of the creative landscape. Perhaps more importantly than what he came to represent, however, was the man as he was. The last week has been filled with commemorations and tributes from his coworkers but maybe the most salient show of affection has come from those in Anderson, South Carolina.

In the days following his passing, his old High School T.L. Hanna High School revealed plans to set up a grant called the Chadwick Boseman Memorial Scholarship to be awarded to one student each year. Boseman who was also a keen basketball player before moving on would go on to study at Howard University (a historically black institution in Washington) but the gesture from his High school is emblematic of Anderson's sense of pride in its world star.

Chadwick Boseman had also a keen basketball player during his time at T.L. Hanna High School.

A petition currently featuring more than 68,00 signatures was also set up, calling for an Anderson Confederate Memorial in the area of his birth to be replaced with a statue of Boseman instead. He has also been memorialized by several street artists within the area, and even in death, has remained a visible symbol of unity within the community.

A memorial service in his honour saw hundreds gather at the Anderson Sports Entertainment Complex to remember him both as an actor and man who had stayed in touch with his community. The evening which began with a prayer service saw the Mayor of Anderson Terence Roberts, as well as Deanna Brown, the daughter of James Brown, share their thoughts on Boseman, his character and his community.

The most moving contribution of all though came from his childhood Pastor, Dr. Samuel Neely. He spoke of Boseman's commitment to excellence and revealed the extent of his diligence from an early age. For Neely, this was most apparent through his early efforts within the church. Both the adult choir (which he participated in) and the Church youth department acted as vehicles through which an early passion for speech and performance would emerge. As well as his activeness within the youth department, he would participate in skits and compete in state contests. "A different Chad" as Neely describes, would often emerge on these occasions when he stood in front of an audience.

Crowds gathered in the hundreds to attend the memorial service in Anderson, South Carolina.

He became a leader in the South Carolina Baptist Congress of Christian education and at the church, he even wrote a play that helped local youth express their feelings in coping with the tragic death of one of their peers. He took the lead by orchestrating the play and presenting it at the welfare church. It was also at the young age of 15 that he wrote and presented his first statewide play during the baptist education congress, hosted in Anderson county.

Amongst his retelling of Boseman's early life, Neely offered one final insight which more than any other describes the man many say they had come to know. Fittingly and in line with the occasion, he remarked: "Chad's uniqueness was to always do the best he could in order to accomplish whatever he set out to do."

It was perhaps the most apt description of the South Carolina native: a man who spent so much of his final years playing heroes and icons, only to become one for his state and moviegoers the world over.

Mayowa Ayodele

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