I will confess this to you, Torches. I haven’t cried yet over Kobe Bryant. Not like I wanted to. And I can’t help but cry every time I think of Chadwick Boseman. This is the thing about being Black, being an artist and seeing Black artists–only to lose them tragically. This here, these losses? I don’t even know where to begin! How do you mourn this? How can you begin to process this! Let’s tackle the loss of Kobe Bryant first.
Even using the word ‘loss’ to describe Kobe Bryant is odd. I remember where I was, what time it was, and how I thought the report was a whole lie! I remember once the information of confirmed through our Social Media Coordinator, I still didn’t believe it! Why? Kobe Bryant was (WAS?!) my age. I had seen him grow up! I remember when he was drafted! I even remember when he got caught up with that girl in Colorado!
I remember how amazing he was; when Jordan crossed him up in the first part of his career; when he was #8 before he was #24. I remember…and was so looking forward to what he wad going to do after basketball. To lose him in a helicopter crash–with this daughter with him!–how goes collective Blackness process this? How do we really mourn the Black Mamba! How do we mourn Mambacita?! How do we support Vanessa Bryant, who had the new baby when all this happened?! It all seems like too much. It seems too unreal. Even now, almost a year later (a year!) it doesn’t seem real! It feels that we cannot be mourning this much, this hard, and all fronts! I mean, after Kobe died, then we have COVID-19 burn through the nation not even a full two months later? How can such a thing be?! Kobe Bryant died in a helicopter crash…with his daughter. Repeating this, Torches, snatches me back to January all over again.
Kobe was a TORCH.
In remembering Chadwick Boseman, I legit don’t even know where to start with the pain of his loss–in feeling robbed and completely cheated! It took me months to watch Spike Lee’s ‘Da 5 Bloods‘ because I felt no immediate draw to watch it. I knew I would have to, and knew that I wanted to! When I saw it? I screamed. There was a pain that erupted in me like I had not felt since my cousin was murdered sixteen years ago. I realized again, Chadwick Aaron Boseman was dead.
Again, like Kobe, I remember where I was. I remember what I was doing–I even remember who told me his was dead! I remember how proud of him I was when I saw ’42‘. I remember the picture he took with Jackie Robinson’s widow, Rachel. I remember crying when he was cast as T’Challa. I cried during Black Panther! I had planned on watching 21 Bridges! With his loss, I had no words! When I found out after his death that he was a writer? I collapsed. Now, you would have to be a Black writer to understand how devastating it is to lose one of our own!
Chadwick reminded me of a blend of Denzel Washington and Sidney Poitier! The blend of charisma, raw talent and militant self-awareness. I remember hanging on his every word in interviews, cried at his commencement at his alma mater, Howard University! I also remember having to tell my oldest daughter, the dedicated Marvel Comic fan, the King was dead. I had to tell her this after remembering how devastated she was watching the first part of Infinity War, seeing T’Challa caught up in the snap! I told her with all the courage any Blerd mom would have, telling her: “No one dies in the Marvel Universe.” I said that to her as a comfort, and when she smiled? I knew her fears were assayed. Yet, when the actor, the vessel behind the superhero died? What could I tell her–a hero was gone. As she laid on my bed and cried, I felt helpless–almost as if I had lied to her.
There is a rip in the culture with this loss, and a wound, pulsing and raw is there! The loss is compounded by knowing he had Stage IV colon cancer–and told no one. No one! And no one shared his business! There is so much to unpack here, Torches! But all I keep coming back to is–the pain of this loss! The artist in me is in a working place of being inconsolable. I’m trying not to be, but I am.
Chadwick was a TORCH.
These losses hit different, Torches. They feel more like robberies, like someone broke into a house stole everything and then burned it down for spite! I have frequently said that death is a thief and a robber. And how does one rebuild from a burned out house? Well, we remember that the house was not built insolation–there are more dreamers and visionaries to keep building. There are more people who have envisioned houses that surround this one which was lost. There are more artists that we know, and more athletes to come. We are not alone–the grief will come. The grief will ease. We will go on. There is still more to remember.
But as Torches, we will never forget.