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'We Just Got Him': Boston's Black Comic Book Enthusiasts Mourn Chadwick Boseman04:09
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Pata Dibinga poses with his two kids, son Sa (L) and daughter Ngolela (R). (Courtesy of Pata Dibinga)
Pata Dibinga poses with his two kids, son Sa (L) and daughter Ngolela (R). (Courtesy of Pata Dibinga)

When Pata Dibinga found out, it was the eve of his father's funeral and he was writing the eulogy. He was watching television and saw Black Panther come on the evening news.

"And they said 'Chadwick Boseman, star of Black Panther . . .' and I got on my knees and I was like, 'Oh no,'" Dibinga said. "And I fell on the ground and I was just mad."

Dibinga said sadness followed the anger. He may have thrown a few things.

On Saturday, the day of his father's funeral, Dibinga said the spirits of Boseman and Black Panther felt present. People gathered in a libation circle and spoke the names of ancestors and people who have passed on.

"We were throwing names like Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, Dr. King, Rosa Parks, John Lewis," Dibinga said. "And my niece, she's 14, shouts Chadwick Boseman and you could see everyone sink because we were just so sad."

Pata Dibinga's two children - his son Sa (L) and his daughter Ngolela (R) - in Black Panther and Shuri outfits. (Courtesy of Pata Dibinga)
Pata Dibinga's two children - his son Sa (L) and his daughter Ngolela (R) - in Black Panther and Shuri outfits. (Courtesy of Pata Dibinga)

He said in a way, at his dad's funeral, he got to eulogize two heroes: his father — who fought and escaped tyranny in the Democratic Republic of Congo — and Black Panther.

"I said, 'We went from being ridiculed as African to now the whole world is rightfully mourning a mythical king from a mythical country,'" Dibinga said.

But as the world mourns, he said his 8-year-old son doesn't know yet. And Dibinga doesn't know how or when he'll tell him. But when the time is right, maybe in a few weeks, Dibinga will say something along the lines of:

"The guy who plays Black Panther was really sick for a long time and he still wanted to send messages to young people like you, to give you guys hope and inspiration that Black people are capable of anything. And I think maybe that's why he kept pushing — so someone like you can pick up where he left off."

But being older than eight doesn't make the loss of Boseman any easier, said 18-year-old Ahmad Williams, who makes his own comics.

"I was sort of distraught," he said when remembering hearing of Boseman's death. "We just got him. We literally just got him."

"I feel like he was the hero for the Trump era and [Black Panther] gave us a respite. And here we are right now, still in that time. Still needing to fight."

Sandrea Lovelock Williams

In that relatively short time Boseman has been a movie star, he's portrayed Jackie Robinson, James Brown, Thurgood Marshall, and Black Panther.

And in a time of frequent videos of Black people being maimed and killed by police, America could really use a Black Panther right now or someone who embodies him, said Sandrea Lovelock Williams, Ahmad's mom.

"I feel like he was the hero for the Trump era and [Black Panther] gave us a respite," she said. "And here we are right now, still in that time. Still needing to fight."

Chadwick Boseman fought cancer for nearly four years, and Black comic enthusiasts in Boston will tell you, in many ways, he fought for them too.

This segment aired on August 30, 2020.

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Quincy Walters is a general assignment reporter for WBUR.

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