BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB)– Actor Chadwick Boseman’s passing hits particularly hard here in the Queen City. Not only did the actor spend significant time in Buffalo filming “Marshall”, he was also a hero to young Black children who flocked to local movie theaters to see a superhero who looked like them.
February 2018: The opening weekend of “Black Panther” in Buffalo was significant.
“A lot of the movies that come out today, Spiderman, Batman, they’re all…they’re white. And so you really don’t have a lot to connect to. Even though you like the comics, seeing this, it’s like, you really don’t think that you’d see this,” said student Oweng Akuey at the time.
Black families and groups of Black children brought by churches and chaperoned by community leaders flocked to theaters like the Regal on Elmwood to see a reflection of themselves on the big screen.
“It’s showing them that people who look different, people, who are non-traditional in terms of getting these roles, can be superheroes, can be heroes, and it says to all of our young people that you can do great things,” said Mayor Byron Brown back in 2018.
Words that still ring true today.
Saturday, Brown shared a photo on social media of himself with the actor, writing, “Boseman truly put his all into every role he played, inspiring a generation of Black actors and youth to be the very best they can be.”
“Honestly, I think his best and most meaningful roles to him were were that of Jackie Robinson and Marshall. I really do think he got into those roles deeply,” said Buffalo Niagara film commissioner Tim Clark.
Boseman’s acting also put Buffalo in the national spotlight. His film “Marshall” showcased iconic places in Buffalo from City Hall to the Central Terminal.
Clark remembers Boseman’s interest in visiting the Colored Musicians Club among other historical buildings that chronicle Black history and culture.
“He was really into that corridor but also the history of WNY and Buffalo, particularly as it played in the underground railroad,” Clark said.
On Saturday, Reverend Mark Blue, the president of the NAACP Buffalo chapter said Boseman was a role model.
Perhaps more importantly, Blue said, Boseman’s battle with colon cancer raises awareness about health disparities that African Americans face.
“He’ll be admired by all and a benchmark for all of us, letting us know that we can’t let even illness stop us from doing the things that we want to do,” Rev. Blue said. “But it also again brings an alert to African American men’s health.”
Blue said he hopes Boseman’s passing encourages a conversation improving the access African Americans have to good healthcare.
Erica Brecher is an anchor and reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 2018. See more of her work here.