This past weekend Black excellence was put on full display as we celebrated the 52nd annual NAACP Image Awards. After a trying 2020, the ceremony was a welcomed celebration highlighting the year's bright spots. Without question, there were many highs over the course of the night, but also a few tearjerking segments. One such moment was when the late Chadwick Boseman won for Outstanding Actor in “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom", there wasn't—or at least it felt like there couldn't be— a dry eye in the house.
Boseman's widow, Taylor Simone Ledward Boseman, accepted his posthumous award, as she has throughout awards season. This time however was a bit different. With every acceptance speech she is understandably emotional, but rarely have I seen her share something so moving. She passionately emphasized the importance of Black men going to get their colons checked—even if they’re younger than the age conventionally recommended.
Chadwick Boseman lost his battle with colon cancer in 2020. He fought valiantly, and privately, leaving the world shocked that the man who portrayed music icon James Brown, Civil Rights leader Thurgood Marshall and Marvel's Black Panther was gone. While the public grieved the loss of this purpose-driven talent, the Boseman family lost a cherished son, brother and husband. We can only imagine how hard it was for his wife, which made me appreciate Taylor using her platform to look out for us.
The truth is that colon cancer ravages Black men. According to cancer.org Black men are 20% more likely to get the disease than other races and 40% more likely to die from it. With colorectal cancer being the second most deadliest in the country, it would behoove us to heed Taylor’s words.
Her acceptance speech tugged at my heartstrings that night. As a man, I hate to see a woman in pain, particularly when it's due to losing someone who was such a big part of her life. I felt for her. That's likely why when Taylor spoke so emphatically about the importance of getting screened, and getting screened early, it really resonated. As I sit here at the age of thirty-two, it's easy to lose sight of the fact that time is flying by. Sure I’m young-ish, but the spring chicken days are over. I’m only about 10 years Chadwick’s junior and his story is a reminder that I may need to consider being screened in my thirties—just in case. It's scary.
That acceptance speech was filled with nothing but love. I would be hard pressed to remember a speech that felt as honest and as genuine as this one, and appreciated it more than I can truly convey. I thought today was the perfect day to reiterate Taylor’s sentiments. We have to be proactive about our health as men. We have to make sure that we remain around for our families. Being around just isn’t enough either, we need to be healthy so we can actively engage with our loved ones. To do so we must make wellness our priority.
One of my favorite phrases is “your best ability is availability,” and if you aren’t available for your loved ones then how useful can you be? Unfortunately, Chadwick Boseman transitioned after only 44 years with us. He lived a life of service. And I commend his widow for pushing past her pain to help so many other husbands, fathers, and sons with her words. We thank and honor her. One last nod to Black women looking out the way that you all do, it’s not unseen.
Kahlil is a writer, author, and content creator from Brooklyn, NY. He really thinks that you should be familiar with him by now, but if you aren't, feel free to be. Follow his work on Instagram @Damnitpops and his thoughts and rants on Twitter @Damnpops