• noelactor

WAKANDA 2020: A Black Health Check

Updated: Dec 31, 2021

I was giving my young son a bath when two of my sisters and my friend, Manny texted me consecutively with the news of Chadwick Boseman's death. I sat on the floor and washed his back on autopilot.

I didn’t know Chadwick personally, but we are the same age, 43 (Btw, the recommended age for check ups on this is 45). And I’m seeing many touching posts from industry friends and associates that knew him well.

It’s like having a good friend that life keeps you from texting or calling as much as you used to. But you know they’re always going to be there. And you always pick up right where you left off when you finally reconnect. I knew I could pick up a dvd or find an article on how well Chadwick was doing anytime I needed an an espresso shot of black excellence. Except he’s gone now.

I stopped eating meat about five years ago after yet another family member died of cancer. With my first passed loved one, I was the last to see her, one of my favorite cousins, alive. She was in her twenties, already in a coma, and looked nothing like her former self. Her new, frail and vulnerable form had been a wake up call. But it would take a few more relatives to die before I was inspired to change my own health habits. Coming from my Caribbean eating culture, it will always be a struggle for me. But at least I am more aware, accept it and am informed preventatively.

I suppose aside from speaking praises about this amazing actor and his legacy, I wanted to send a PSA out to all my people of color, in particular.

As we’re seeing with the sub-par, biased treatment of blacks in America in regards to Covid-19, it’ll come as no surprise that African descent Americans have the highest colorectal cancer mortality rate - and for men, prostate cancer. So preventative health responsibilities now falls on us.

I read that only approximately 10%  of colon cancer victims are due to familial causes. So the rest is environmental; What we eat, how we maintain our temples, if we smoke, if we’re too sedentary, etc. I also read a statistic that 80% of African American women are clinically obese. And that data was from a few years ago. That. Is. Insane.  So now you know. But what can YOU do about it?

Side note. I love meat. Before the ghetto Chinese food stores in Harlem all of us kids in the hood used to frequent, my upbringing in Trinidad and Tobago had me hooked on the salt pork in the Callaloo, the deep fried bacon every Sunday, the beef in the paleau, and curry chicken and goat in the roti, and the holiday ham and so on.

I still have meat dreams, 5 years later. Tripas tacos yell to me in Spanish, out an Echo Park food truck, asking if they could jump in my mouth. And I’m tempted. I mean meat's delicious! But I don’t want to end up dying painfully like my relatives. Or worse, living painfully. Like my father who walks around with a colostomy bag for more than a decade now. Ay...

Whether Chadwick had cancer in his family or not, it comes for everyone- from every cross section of life. So lessen the odds for yourself. Check out Forks Over Knives or What The Health as simple primer documentaries.

And of course, you can’t go by looks. I had a British boss once. A ripped soccer player in his 50's who loved his fish and chips. They found him dead of a coronary in front of his TV. Health is a practice.

Read up on how the food pyramid was concocted and warped by the meat and dairy industry back in the 50’s to sell more products- and how your RDA for meat is inflated. Of how the carcinogenic by-products of meat irritate your cells until they turn against your body. It’s all there. You just have to make the effort. Life expectancy in general has gone from age 15, to now, in some race and sex categories, into the triple digits. Because of health education. The internet can help you have longevity with just a few behavioral tweaks.

PSA done, I have a few things to cite about Chadwick Boseman’s growing legacy. One, watching his underplaying of acting roles, from 42 to BP, made everyone’s performance elevate to such a greater level, it made him look like he wasn’t doing any work at all.

Two. People are posting about the legacy of black and brown children who can now identify with a hero that looked like them. And that is true. And welcomed.

But I wonder about the little white boy who sat with his family in Endgame the first time I saw it, who didn't get excited until Chadwick came out of the portal. That white kid who jumped on his seat and started screaming at the top of his voice, Black Panther’s war cry. "YIBAMBE! YIBAMBE!"...(“Hold the Line/Hold fast/Hold Strong”)

Because I’ve never seen anything like that in all my years. People talk about commercial entertainment being fluff, but Chadwick’s role in that character engendered that response in that little white boy who will grow up, hopefully not fearing or hating people of skin colors different from his.

And hopefully, there were thousands of other white children and adults as moved as WE were. As I was...I’ve been reading comics since I was very young. And to see all of these characters in fully fleshed forms in live action has been many dreams come true. But when Chadwick first appeared on screen in Civil War, I knew it was going to be transcendent.

Three, all the synchronicity of the day of Chadwick’s passing: Barak Obama becomes the Democratic front runner in 2008, the birthday of Jack Kirby ( Black Panther co-creator), the anniversary of The March on Washington, The Murders of Emmet Till and W. E. B. DuBois, Jackie Robinson Day (Another iconic movie Chadwick helmed about another black icon), and the day hurricane Katrina hit.

Four, to rough quote the co-founder of #BlacKLivesMatter  from her Instagram- “...for the past 4 years he’d been living with cancer through many of the movies we’ve loved. And said nothing about his pain publicly, to give us these performances that raised our culture up.  And here we were thinking he was just playing a super hero on screen when he was actually one in real life”

And from me, quoting the King Panther, "YIBAMBE" 🙏🏿

PPS: A link to an article on the disparage of Blacks’ healthcare and colon cancer:

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