Once again here in the COVID times I sit here teary-eyed, and this time it’s because of the passing of Chadwick Boseman.

I never see movies. Most people I meet get quickly exasperated with me about this. “What do you MEAN you haven’t seen” x or y movie? For me and my limited attention span, it’s hard to get me to go sit still somewhere for 2+ hours.

I saw Black Panther in theaters twice. I thought it a magnificent experience. I don’t think I can describe how energizing it feels to see people of color – I’m not Black. But I hadn’t realized how much I had, deep down, yearned for portrayals of heroes and fantasies reflecting non-white experiences. Not just a token character here or there, but a fully realized world. (Also, I nearly shouted in the movie theater the first time, at the car chase scene in Busan, in a truly bizarre fit of homesickness. 한국 사랑해요!).

If the film had that much impact on me, a thirty-something Asian woman, imagine the impact on a young Black child growing up in this world.

I’ve read that Chadwick had been diagnosed with cancer in 2016 – meaning that he had likely been on set and filming as the cancer ravaged his body. He knew how important this role was; here is a shining example of someone literally giving all they could, to art:

I can’t quite fully deal with knowing that Chadwick knew he himself had cancer, while writing letters to these children. It’s too much.

Lately I’ve been interviewing people about death. (It’s development, for a show, which is what I love to do and what I always do). In COVID times, people can disappear from life and you just get a text, and maybe there’s a Zoom funeral with everyone in boxes muting and unmuting, and it can feel vaguely unsatisfying. But we also have more time than we did, time to sit in our feelings and process the rift.

When my grandmother died – when we went through the days long Buddhist funeral process and when the monk gestured towards our heads, signifying that we could remove our headbands – I felt the moment that she stopped being my earthly grandmother, the woman who fed me bread with laughing cow cheese and laughed so softly, and moved on to becoming my ancestor.

Now Chadwick Boseman joins the Djalia, the collective memory of a people. Where the distinction between past/present/future holds less tyranny than it does here, where we are told time and time again that racism and fascism are relics of the past and to just get over it. Here, where Black people are shot dead in their houses, immigrant children are torn from their parents and locked in cages. Where I’m a virus.

I’ve been an atheist since the age of 14. I was a lot more rigid about that in my high school and early college years, having formed almost a sort of identity about it, in response to being surrounded with mostly white Catholic and Protestant types all throughout school. These days, my views are a lot more syncretic and fluid. I read tarot. I have a happy Buddha statue on my mantle that I pray to sometimes, when the anxiety gets to be too much. I give offerings for the dead.

In some way or other, the ancestors do watch over us. I hope to add my art to the collection, and to fight for the visions that our ancestors revealed to us. I hope to live the rest of my life in a way that does justice to their time on earth.

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