From a screening of Black Panther at Grand Lake Theater. Credit: Jason Muñiz

Late on Friday night, news broke that actor Chadwick Boseman had passed away at his home in Los Angeles, surrounded by his wife and family, after battling stage 4 colon cancer. He was 43.

To many in Oakland, Boseman, who was born in South Carolina, became an honorary Oaklander thanks to his portrayal as King T’Challa, king of the fantastical African country of Wakanda, in 2018’s Marvel’s megablockbuster film, Black Panther. The film opens in Oakland, and easter eggs paying tribute to the city are sprinkled throughout. Black Panther was directed by Oakland native Ryan Coogler, who made his directorial debut with 2013’s Fruitvale Station.

Boseman’s portrayal of King T’Challa and Coogler’s masterful directing shone a spotlight on the power of casting Black actors in superhero roles, making the Black Panther Marvel’s first Black superhero. On opening night and well beyond, Black kids everywhere saw themselves represented on the big screen, and Boseman became Oakland’s own superhero. 

When the film was released, The Town went into a frenzy. Every screening was sold out. On opening night, director Coogler stunned the crowd at the Grand Lake Theater by making a surprise appearance, expressing his gratitude to be back at the first movie theater he remembered from his childhood. 

Kids attending a screening of Black Panther at Oakland's Grand Lake Theater
Jason Muñiz took some of his former Fremont High students to watch the film at Grand Lake. “It was special when the kids stopped to stare at the poster.” Credit: Jason Muñiz

Boseman’s battle with cancer, which he was first diagnosed with in 2016, came as a shock to fans and fellow actors everywhere. He was cast to star in Black Panther in 2014 and made his debut as the superhero in 2016’s Captain America: Civil War. Boseman battled with the disease during the filming of Black Panther. According to a family statement, only his immediate circle knew of his diagnosis.

While battling cancer, he continued to work. He appeared in the movies Marshall, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, and his final film, Spike Lee’s Da 5 Bloods, currently streaming on Netflix. Boseman passed away on this year’s observance of Jackie Robinson Day; he portrayed the baseball legend in his first starring role in the 2013 film 42.

News of Boseman’s passing shocked the entertainment world, and it had particular resonance for countless Oaklanders. King T’Challa had died. Social media burst with tributes remembering the multi-faceted actor. Below, we round up some of the countless tributes honoring Boseman’s short-lived yet legendary career. Rest in Power, Chadwick Boseman. Wakanda Forever.

From musician and Oakland native Kehlani:

From Oakland native MC Hammer:

More reactions from Oakland and Bay Area residents and fans:

Azucena Rasilla headshot

Azucena Rasilla is a bilingual journalist from East Oakland reporting in Spanish and in English, and a longtime reporter on Oakland arts, culture and community. As an independent local journalist, she has reported for KQED Arts, The Bold Italic, Zora and The San Francisco Chronicle. She was a writer and social media editor for the East Bay Express, helping readers navigate Oakland’s rich artistic and creative landscapes through a wide range of innovative digital approaches.