TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – WWE Superstar Titus O’Neil had never seen a superhero who looked like him on TV or the big screen.
That is until Chadwick Boseman led a predominantly black cast and brought the Black Panther to life.
“We were portrayed as African Americans the way we should have been portrayed, as smart, intelligent, and fierce warriors,” O’Neil said.
O’Neil told News Channel 8 part of the late actor’s legacy will be how he redefined the representation of African Americans in the movies.
Back in 2018, the local philanthropist bought tickets for all of the students at Academy Prep in Tampa to see Marvel’s groundbreaking movie.
“My whole reasoning for that was to get as many people out to the movie theaters of black and brown descent to see black heroes,” O’Neil said.
Before Boseman’s most famous performance as King T’Challa, he portrayed African American icons James Brown, Thurgood Marshall, and Jackie Robinson.
Boseman passed away after a four year battle with colon cancer on the same day Major League Baseball honored the legend who broke down the sport’s color barrier.
“Especially with everything that’s going on in the country right now,” O’Neil said, “I would encourage everyone to go watch ’42’ because when you say we’re all the same, this movie was portrayed a time that’s not that long ago.”
O’Neil told News Channel 8 the death of Boseman in his early 40s is all too similar to the sudden loss of another bright star.
“Chadwick was one of the people, like Kobe (Bryant) who changed people’s perceptions of the black community,” he said.
Dave Bautista, who lives in Tampa and appeared in The Avengers movies with Boseman posted this simple tribute on Twitter.
While Boseman played a superhero on the big screen, he kept his behind the scenes battle with cancer private.
O’Neil said he hopes his death can be a reminder about the importance of going for medical check-ups and cancer screenings.
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