Born Nov. 29, 1976 in Anderson, South Carolina
Died Aug. 28, 2020 in Los Angeles, California
I remember looking out of the window of our old Mott Branch library in the early spring of 2018 and observing our new building under construction. You could already see the magnificent shape of the roofline and the developing interiors through the walls of glass. One of the librarians came over to me and said that the kids were calling the new building “Mottkanda.” Wow, the perfect nickname for the new Mott Branch! The impact of the new building and all that it represented to the community came rushing to me as I thought about the source of the moniker: Wakanda, home of the fictitious country in the heart of Africa, and the kingdom of “T’Challa,” Marvel Comic’s Black Panther. Chadwick Boseman had not only portrayed an iconic character as the Black Panther, but also left the world imagining the possibility of a new world.
So, why is that comic strip character’s world so important right now? Our world right now is making quick decisions on what is good, bad, right, wrong, true, and false without regard of someone’s character, the impact on others, or their very lives. If you are the wrong skin color, in the wrong neighborhood, the wrong police officer … well, we have seen the horrific scenes playing out right in front of us with horrifying regularity. Chadwick Boseman was T’Challa, just like he was Jackie Robinson, James Brown, Thurgood Marshall, and “Stormin’ Norman”, the fearless soldier in Spike Lee’s film, Da 5 Bloods. Boseman embodied in each of his roles the power, majesty, and foibles of people central to our American history. He brought an enduring quality to his roles that will not be forgotten. Valerie Russ of the Philadelphia Enquirer wrote last week about Boseman:
“I stand here today knowing that my Howard University education prepared me to play Jackie Robinson, James Brown, Thurgood Marshall, and T’Challa,” Boseman told the graduating seniors. Russ goes on to the write, “He was speaking of the roles he played with an intensity and eloquence in the films 42, about Robinson’s fraught-filled years as the first Black baseball player in the major leagues; in Marshall, as the late U.S. Supreme Court justice as a young lawyer; and, as the newly crowned king of Wakanda in Black Panther.” Louis Massiah, the founder and director of Scribe Video Center said this about Boseman’s passion for his work: “He was a very, very, serious actor. There are lots of good actors, really. He’s not alone. What was exceptional about Chadwick is because of his excellence, he was able to shine and able to get starring lead roles.”
Mottkanda is more than just a name that we call our branch, it elevates the possibilities for our community. Possibility must start somewhere; it must take root and grow. It must be an agent of change for understanding humanity. Chadwick Boseman was able to draw our collective consciousness deeply enough to fill a void, which must remain filled to understand what Black Lives Matter really means. He was able to express the inexplicable humanity of Black men and the gifts they gave us. If seeing is believing, then the ways Boseman saw his world, his work, and the impact that he was having on viewers let us believe in possibilities. I am thankful for that. He was exceptional and it came across loud and clear with each role he played and the life he lived. MOTTKANDA forever.