By Michelle Tian

Dear Chadwick Boseman,

Maybe in a different life, I would be telling this to you face-to-face at one of those overcrowded meet-and-greets at Comic-Con, or writing this message before watching “Black Panther 2.” I wish that reality existed because I know it would’ve treated you better, and I know you would have done more for the world, but this reality is what we’re stuck with. So I’m going to write this tribute to you, as much as it hurts to know you won’t be able to read it.

I grew up with Marvel Studios and watched all the movies in theatres whenever I could. However, I didn’t truly become obsessed with the franchise until you showed up on the screen as King T’Challa and dominated the box office.

I remember the way I felt watching “Black Panther” for the first time, the chills I got when your character and Killmonger were fighting on the train tracks. I walked out of the theatre, unable to stop thinking about the movie and felt this surge of excitement knowing I would be able to see you on the big screen again in just a few months in “Avengers: Infinity War”— an iconic crossover that the entire world was talking about.

Your portrayal of a powerful king who would sit near death’s edge over and over for his people inspired me to watch all of the Marvel movies with more attention and focus than I had ever done before. You made me fall in love with this franchise, and I learned more than I could have ever hoped to learn through a textbook or a lecture.

These films taught me and so many other people important life lessons. I learned that your mistakes should not define you and your past doesn’t dictate your future. And on a less cheesy note, we got some really good movies that I could watch any time, any day.

I still vividly recall the moment I found out the news. I was eating at a sushi restaurant with my family, celebrating my mom’s birthday. My brother told me what happened, and I rolled my eyes because that guy is incapable of anything but making jokes. But I searched it up just to be sure, and I started crying into my sushi when I realized it was true.

Chadwick, you may have played a hero on screen, but as you silently battled cancer for four years while making art for all of us, you were a greater hero than any Avenger ever could be.

Not only that, but you paved the way for greatness. “Black Panther” finally showed the true power minorities can hold. Because of you, “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” was made possible, and I’ll finally be able to see someone who looks like me lead a Marvel movie. 

You were one of my favorite people on the planet. I adored your laugh, the way it was so contagious and made me laugh, too — not because the joke was funny but because the sound you made every time was so hilarious.

You deserved much more than the world could have given you. Maybe that’s why you left us so soon — to seek out what this life couldn’t give you. I pray that you’ve found whatever it was you were searching for. Because, like you said, “in my culture, death is not the end.”

On behalf of all of us who were lucky enough to witness your talent, I want to thank you for giving us all that you did. We loved you. Hopefully, you knew just how much.

Wakanda Forever, my king.