If I Die Before I Wake – A Reflection on the Regal Nature of Chadwick Boseman

I can’t stop thinking about Chadwick Boseman. He’s been on my mind so much that I caught myself shaking my head in the gym on the edge of tears. Now if you know me, you know that this isn’t characteristic of me. So, I had to examine why I was taking this so hard. Even before he died, I would find myself googling about his health. Like many people, I saw him getting thinner and would find myself concerned about him. I too hoped that the weight loss was due to him thinning up for a movie role. It had been announced, around the time that he started coming into public noticeably thinner, that he was going to play the first and only Black Samurai, Yasuke, who served under Japanese warlord Oda Nobunaga in 16th century Japan. Once again, he was going to take on the role of one of the “First Blacks to…” just as he had with James Brown, Thurgood Marshall, and Jackie Robinson. So I hoped that his gaunt appearance was going to reveal itself to be indicative of his passion for his craft and the calling on his life to bring powerful characters into the consciousness of people who for so long had very few symbols to hold on to.

Thank you for being a King in this life—for challenging our imaginations and giving us an aspirational symbol. I know many people will think that you were “just an actor”. But for those of us who never grew up with superheroes who looked like us and saw ourselves portrayed in a negative light, you made an indelible mark and shined eternally bright. #restinwakandaforever

My Instagram post August 30, 2020

I don’t say this much out loud. But I often feel lonely. Part of this loneliness comes from the fact that I don’t have many living role models before me who can relate to my background or life’s experiences. Everyday, I try, in my small way, to live up to an ideal that I have never actually witnessed being displayed up close. And I do it knowing that I live in a world that, whether people will admit it or not, is always waiting for me to fail. And not just me. If I extrapolate from the conversations I’ve had over my lifetime, almost everyone who is veiled in Black skin in this country carries this burden either consciously or unconsciously. Though many people are in denial about it, if you’re paying attention as a Black person, you know. And others know it too. If we fail, we take so many other people down with us. Because to be Black here is to be a symbol. And as a symbol, you always represent much more than yourself. Whereas, if some other people fail, they are simply seen as an individual–often deserving of second, third, fourth, and fifth chances.

When you are a symbol, society tries to make you an exception when you achieve in any capacity simply because the underlying belief is that most of us are incapable of meeting the illusory standards of this country. That’s why I think our ascendance, however small, is watched very closely. I believe that this is because, every step that any of us climbs, undoes the structure of the painfully comfortable false narrative that was built upon the foundation of our supposed inferiority. In other words, when Black people do well, especially in arenas where we are not always lauded, it tears at the fabric of this nation’s institutional myth about the capacities of American Blackness that almost everyone has bought into–even many Black folks. What if we were always this talented; this intelligent; this powerful? What does that say about how our ancestors were treated? What does it say about those of us who succumbed to the lies told about us? Does the past become even more tragic if we consider that we all had Wakandan like potential that was virtually strangled out of us for centuries? The questions are almost too much to contemplate.

By simply being who he was and living into his moment, Chadwick embodied that potential. His nature was regal. And in his person he carried the spirits of many of our ancestors. Perhaps that is why he was called here to embody them for us in the enduring form of film. He showed us our past and our future. He changed our world. And then he left.

In my work, I have seen many people die. I have watched as the light leaves their bodies and often wondered if they illumined every place they came here to shine in. I suspect that most haven’t. And that’s why there is not a day that goes by that I don’t think about when my day will come. But I am not afraid of death. Ever since I became aware of the expectation that, as a Black Man in America, I would either die or spend some time in the criminal justice system by 18, I have contemplated my death. So no, I am not afraid of death at all. What gets to me is the idea that I will not do all that I can with this life because I will have allowed myself to be overly weighed down by the loneliness of being the first or the only. As they say, I don’t want to die with my music still in me. I want to truly live while I am here. And the truth is that I can’t say that I’ve done that yet. So perhaps that is part of why I can’t stop thinking about Chadwick Boseman.

Consider what he accomplished in the 4 years that he was diagnosed and being treated for colon cancer. Can you imagine? And consider that he did all of this while keeping his diagnosis to himself. Talk about lonely. But I don’t think he kept it to himself for himself. I think he did it for all us who know what it’s like to be the first or the only. In a consumer driven world where illness is seen as just another failure, he commanded his body and the world it inhabited to conform to his ideal. And in so doing, he tore that mythical fabric of Black inferiority that much more.

Of course, it is sad that he was not able to share his struggles with the world and receive the wellspring of compassion that he would have likely received and perhaps lived longer. But he was Black before he was The Black Panther. So I can imagine that he didn’t think he would get a second chance. So he did everything he could with the chance he got knowing that just like when one of us goes down we inadvertently take others with us, when we ascend, we take others with us as well. And that’s why I can say unequivocally that though this man had no earthly crown, he was and always will be a king. And at least for me, his being brings about a sense of conviction that before I die, I must make contact with my own regality and do everything I can to encourage it in others.

A Poem Fit for a King (In Memory of Chadwick Boseman)
I’ll see you on the Other Side
But I still can see you now
In the ways you changed the atmosphere
And by your essence you showed us how

We can’t believe that you are gone
And yet you’re here now more than ever
Giving form to a future and a past
We salute you now and forever

Now that your form is no longer with us
We see the burden that was in your eyes
You held the Space just long enough
To show that One who is Living never dies

Someday we all will meet you
In the azure canopied ancestral plains
Where everyone is a queen and king
In the Place where Spirit reigns.

© Copyright 2020 Pedro S. Silva II

The Truths Cannot Die

The next time that you kill us
Remember we never really die
Suppressing us won’t free you
Because Truth can’t sustain a lie

I know our presence scares you
We make you feel unsure
Nothing can quite prepare you
For seeing your prejudice impure

You’ve been taught we’re inconvenient
You try to hide us from your view
But locking us up doesn’t keep us out
Since you can’t get away from you

Your history of violence
Towards those who look like me
Has left so many people silent
That we barely know how to be

You say that we are valued
And yet you try to hide the Truth
But there’s no escaping what’s evident
We are the living proof

But where does this knowledge leave us
For too many it ushers shame
The one thing no one wants to feel
Because we can’t escape the pain

See that’s not what we’re seeking
What we want to share is hope
But in our face you see a mirror
And hang the image from a rope

Your guilt too, is not of value
It’s just denial in different dress
Which leads to justification
Which fosters anger and unrest

So what is the solution?
Where do we go from here?
How can we live by a better Way,
When we hold on to our fear?

The answer is we cannot
We have to let love win
Or die in the darkness that we choose
And then do it all again

He Fit the Description

They told him “put your hands up.”
He did and that day he died.
Innocence put to death.
His crime was he complied

The authorities are the ones who killed him.
He must have “fit the right description”
They called him a troublemaker.
Never mind it was a fiction

It wasn’t just the way he looked
It was also the way he saw
He loved outside the rules
To them it violated law

He was out with his friends
No one knows what he did wrong
But they came for him with their weapons
They already had them drawn

Though unarmed and non-threatening,
They started drawing near
To me it’s quite ironic
That they were filled with so much fear

What were they afraid of–
The stories they were told?
“You better watch out with a guy like him.”
“He’s been known to lose control.”

“Have you seen the crowd he hangs with?”
“Let’s look at all the facts.”
“A gang leader if there was ever one.”
“He should have never crossed the tracks.”

“He dines with people known as criminals.”
“He’s friends with women of the night.”
“Believe me he’s not innocent’.”
“Something is just not right.”

That’s the kind of messaging
That makes those like him such a threat
No one ever gets him
And we still haven’t seen him yet

That’s why still today we kill him
In the bodies we see as least
And yet many of us say we follow him
I thought he was called “The Prince of Peace”

He died so we could stop this
But still we choose to pay the price
Because whenever we kill the innocent
We are always killing Christ.

© Copyright 2016 Pedro S. Silva II

martin-luther-king-and-his-hands-up-huffington-post

No matter what one thinks about Christ, we know what innocence is and what it isn’t in the depths of our being. When we deny that knowledge, we deny all that can be right in this world.

Fighting Over Crumbs

All things to All things
Nothing is denied
But we’re fighting over bread crumbs
Because someone believed a lie

So now we kill each other
In our constant pursuit of more
We believe we are “consumers”
Because we don’t know what we’re for

Infinite Creation
Nothing more or less
But instead destruction follows us
When we put us to the test

Addicted to the thought of conquering
Sixty steps till we unlearn
That the truth of life is obvious
When we’re not looking for our turn

In the mean time there’s confusion
We’re told we have to choose a side
Contests between “us” and “them”
Where the winner doesn’t die

But what if someone told you
That everything is yours
And everything is everyone’s
And no one’s keeping score

The House is not divided
Upon the Rock is where it stands
Never to be shaken
By unreasonable demands

But because it can’t be broken
It won’t resist what it is we do
We can lie all the hell we want to
Because all of it’s untrue

Though we deny the Absolute
It simply continues as it is
Fully realized. No need to strive.
For it’s the life that we all Live

It’s the Bread that’s not devoured
Though we eat it to our fill
Diminishing every sense of loss
Like nothing ever will

 

Spontaneous Cypher

Wonder where I’m coming from?

Let me get you up to speed.

If it’s true–God provides

What I want, I don’t need

Being less never is

In the One Source of All

But let the world tell it

We’re divided by our falls

Makes us so small

Man this grift amaze me

Used to say, “We all One”

But they called me, “Crazy”

Now to me it seems lately

It’s the Word of Truth

The lie of separation

Is now busting loose

Because I Am you are

One Light Two Stars

Shining inside out

So we never go too far

Well that’s about it

That’s All I want to say

Now that that’s off my chest

I bow down to pray.

It’s My Cross Too

I want to be of service
To pour out who I am
Without the thoughts being accepted
Or that people will understand

I don’t want to shift based on opinion
Just to move when I’m in Truth
And be willing to fail if that’s what’s real
And need no signs or proof

I want to follow Jesus
Even if it takes me to the Cross
Because I know he stands in the Light of Love
Where in Truth there is no loss

I no longer want to deny Him
Just because he cannot be explained
You see he’s bigger than religion
With a love that’s not contained.

I want to live his revelation
That all of us are One
The truth he lives and dies for
Until every lie’s undone.

© Copyright 2016 Pedro S. Silva II

Infinite Abundance

It’s all right here
Meaning everything’s here
Nothing in creation
That is far from the near

Seen and the unseen
Everything is one
See the other side of outside
As where the inside’s begun

Winners can’t lose
When the whole game is fixed
For the house to go bust
When you cash in your chips

Give all you have
And watch it all come back
10,000 fold
In this world with no lack

There is no nothing
In the fullness of what is
Absence full of presence
Positively relative

The Up Side of Down

I am done with my pretending
That One can ever be a two
Two is just a false multiplicity
Of all that isn’t true

We claim a world based on division
Of what can never be divided
We think that we can take the All that’s One
And make it double-sided

But the distance never happened
Not even in our dreams
Oneness yielding separation
Infinity bursting at the seams

I can see it all so clearly
I can feel it in my bones
I am still “In the Beginning”
And I’ve never been alone

We is a singularity
Plurality is just a method of expression
The All that’s One seen in many ways
Casting infinite reflections

That’s the Up side of Down
They are One and they’re the same
Like life and death and all that’s left
Are simply links in a single chain

Move a link and see what happens
You move one and you move them all
And so it is in every realm
Rising as we fall

© Copyright 2015 Pedro S. Silva II

Led Into Temptation

When I feel led into temptation

I know it’s not from You

It’s because I’m looking at other things

That are telling me what to do

Thank You that I’m not listening

But I must admit that it’s a challenge

I’m trying to stand on what You said

But it’s hard to keep my balance

I know serving You is a narrow path

That comes with all I need included

But when I begin to look at the outer world

I start wondering if I’m deluded

Sure You always have provided

Showed me things few would believe

But maybe it’s all coincidence

And I have actually been deceived

That’s what I start to tell myself

Whenever I want to take control

Strung along by my desires

Fantasies trying to take their hold

I’m now wrestling with the Cosmos

Corporeality’s got me pinned

I’m on the verge of tapping out

And that’s just when You tap in

The Work You do’s amazing

You’re literally all over the Place

Making One out of many breaks

Through the bending of time and space

Things that seemed to be for evil

All of a sudden becoming good

Doing things I never thought You’d do

But I imagine You knew You would

Or maybe you did it for me

In response to my condition

You saw the mess I was headed toward

So You made my life Your mission

Either way I can say You’ve saved me

Time and time again

Absorbing my temptation

Thereby leading me from sin

 

© Copyright 2015 Pedro S. Silva II

 

Sadness v. Anger

When faced with sadness v. anger

I find it very hard to choose

Because no matter who I side with

It seems someone has to lose

If I decide to go with sadness

It’s like a path to self destruction

Bottling up what is going on

Which begins to effect the way I function

With a less than upbeat countenance

People soon begin to notice

A thousand thoughts going through my mind

Making it a challenge to keep my focus

Soon acquaintances are always checking in

Trying to see if I’m okay

But before I explain what’s on my mind

Their minds begin turning the other way

Which only makes me sadder

I should’ve kept my problems to myself

Few people want to see the pain they hide

Reflected in the face of someone else

“Aren’t we all supposed to be happy

All the blanking time”

A thought that’s so unsettling

That I start to cross the anger line

But here’s the thing about our anger

On the surface it feels so freeing

But spending too much time with it

Can make you a different human being

See with sadness we feel like we should improve

It leads to the gate of our frustration

Where with anger it only feeds itself

On the fuel of justification

We feel it’s a right to have some anger

To feel it is not unique

Some would even say that it’s in vogue

Competing with stress for what’s more chic

Anger gets you some respect

Which in a way can be addicting

Unlike sadness which often comes with shame

Or guilt which is itself restricting

Anger seems to have your back

While sadness only takes you down

You can have an honest laugh with anger

But sadness is better expressed with frowns

People will support you in your anger

With sadness they push away the feeling

We can take our anger to increasing levels

But sadness has to have a ceiling

Maybe it’s because anger’s more entertaining

It makes for a better story

The angry teams walks away with gold

The sad team looking worse outside their glory

We even can accept an angry god

Before we can accept a god who’s sad

Even when meeting God whose name is Love

We anticipate god, the abusive dad

For a loving God knows sadness

This is also the God who cries

But a God who suffers is a God we resist

For this is a God to Whom we’re obliged

For if God suffers we’re never alone

If God endures we’re not in danger

For a God who relates to how we feel

Takes away the righteousness of our anger

We see our pain in context

Through the rending of this veil

We see that when we choose to separate

We are the authors of our own betrayal

Because as long as we are angry

We can’t choose reconciliation

The only way back to our more whole selves

Restored from humiliation

You see healing requires sadness

Even if anger’s our first decision

Because sadness means our heart still has some hope

And has not surrendered to division

Now accepting this isn’t easy

Anger is truly a sweet temptation

But in the end it proves a hopeless endeavor

That only persists in separation

 

© Copyright 2015 Pedro S. Silva II