This weekend, I watched two movies starring Chadwick Boseman - Get On Up and 42.
As you know, Chadwick Boseman passed away from colon cancer last week. In between surgeries and chemo, he did some of his best work. I believe he knew his time may be short, and he wanted to make an impact with movies and characters that reflected his values.
In a commencement speech to his alum Howard University in 2018, Boseman said the roles he played -- Black Panther, Thurgood Marshall, Jackie Robinson, and James Brown -- would not be possible, if he had not gotten fired from one of his first starring roles, where he pushed back on stereotypes he did not want to portray and perpetuate. It's the kind of lesson creatives and those in the entertainment industry love...a story of failure and defeat with a triumphant ending.
Sometimes you need to get knocked down before you can really figure out what your fight is and how you need to fight it.
He goes on to say...
Whatever you choose for a career path, remember, the struggles along the way are only meant to shape you for your purpose... When I dared to challenge the system that would relegate us to victims and stereotypes with no clear historical backgrounds, no hopes or talents, when I quested that method of portrayal, a different path opened up for me, the path to my destiny.
We've all experienced struggles, and this is a powerful reminder that the struggles can make us who we are and lead us to the path we truly should be on. As a creative person, this is especially good to remember because so many times, putting out those creative endeavors may be scary. Rejection feels personal and painful. However, with every "no," your craft gets more refined until a diamond emerges. Once the diamond emerges, that's when you are truly shining your value.
The last lesson from Chadwick Boseman is one of generosity and paying it forward. While presenting an AFI Life Achievement Award to Denzel Washington in 2019, Boseman told a story of getting into a summer theater program at Oxford University in England. He, along with other students of Phylicia Rashad, didn't have the money to pay for the program, and she reached out to her friends. Chadwick later found out his "benefactor was none other than the dopest actor on the planet," Denzel Washington. He continues to say that "there is no Black Panther without Denzel Washington...and not just because of me, but my whole cast, that generation stands on your shoulders."
What you do with the time you have left in this body and with the money you have, means something for those who come after you. Our purpose is to shine our gifts into this world and create these ripple effects around us for generations to come. Thank you, Chadwick Boseman for reminding us of these lessons, in your short yet powerful life.