The world lost yet another giant Friday evening with the death of Black Panther star Chadwick Boseman. Boseman had been battling colon cancer since 2016, but the public didn't learn of his illness until his passing. The actor continued to deliver stellar performances after his diagnosis and through his treatment. In addition to playing the titular Marvel superhero, he will be remembered for his roles as James Brown (in Get on Up), Thurgood Marshall (in Marshall), Jackie Robinson (in 42), as well as for films like Spike Lee's Da 5 Bloods.
After the news broke Friday evening, messages began to pour online lamenting the actor's death, especially for his positive influence and significance in the Black community.
"He was in many great projects, but Black Panther was beyond the scope of anything we could’ve imagined. What an important movie in general, but especially to Black folks. I remember my dad wearing a whole suit to go watch that movie in theaters. RIP Chadwick. Terrible loss," tweeted Christian Burno.
He was in many great projects, but Black Panther was beyond the scope of anything we could’ve imagined. What an important movie in general, but especially to Black folks. I remember my dad wearing a whole suit to go watch that movie in theaters. RIP Chadwick.— Christian Burno (@ChristianBurno) August 29, 2020
That sentiment was on full display by Saturday afternoon when Dallas creatives Jeremy Biggers and Hatziel Flores began work on a mural of Boseman, depicted as superhero Black Panther, at the Fabrication Yard (611 Fabrication St.) in West Dallas.
For Biggers, this creation was personal. As a fan of comic books growing up, Biggers said seeing Boseman portray an “unapologetically Black” superhero at a time when we needed superheroes the most was "important."
Boseman’s death hit close to home for the muralists. Biggers lost his mother to cancer at a young age, and Boseman's death brought back difficult memories for the artist. While he was initially reluctant, Biggers was persuaded by Flores to create the mural because of the actor’s greater impact on the public, and the Black public especially, he says.
“This is gonna help other people heal, so we have to do it,” Biggers says.
In a now-viral video of Boseman with Tonight Show host Jimmy Fallon, a woman tells Boseman how much he means not just to her, but to her son. Black men like former President Barack Obama and Boseman, she said, provided her son with representation and upheld an example of excellence.
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While working on the project, the pair had to pause a few times to reflect, Biggers says.
“To see [Black Panther] that just celebrated Blackness and didn’t include [trauma] is something that we don’t get often,” Biggers says. “So it was definitely worth celebrating.”
With murals of Selena, James Baldwin and Nipsey Hussle sprawled across Dallas, Biggers is no stranger to producing pieces honoring artists whose work is particularly meaningful to marginalized communities. Biggers and Flores are committed to making their art accessible for people of all backgrounds.
Though the Boseman mural isn’t expected to last long at the Fabrication Yard (art is often defaced in less than a week, legally, of course), the impact that Boseman has left on members of the Black community is something that can't be painted over.