Check Our Health for King T’Challa’s Sake

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I join millions in being stunned by the sudden loss of another Black life, from another disease that disproportionately impacts Black people — especially, Black men. Chadwick Boseman — aka Jackie Robinson: aka James Brown; aka Thurgood Marshall; aka Stormin; aka King T’Challa — lost his battle with colon cancer. We had no idea it was his battle, which makes the shock strike us more deeply.

According to the American Cancer Society, colorectal cancer incidence rates in the U.S. are highest among Black men, with an incidence of 58.3 per 100,000 in non-Hispanic Black men compared with an incidence of 46.9 per 100,000 among all men.” Complete health checks must include a colonoscopy and real talk about stigmas that’s prevent us from complete care.

The CDC recommends:

“If you are age 50 to 75 years old, you should get screened for colorectal cancer. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends screening beginning at age 50. Some groups recommend starting earlier, at age 45. The vast majority of new cases of colorectal cancer (about 90%) occur in people who are 50 or older.”

American Cancer Society, has recently reduced their recommended age for colon screening to 45. Boseman would have still been under the radar, but, earlier testing can save lives.

Race/cultural blind spots within the medical field, also contribute to putting Black people at greater risk for preventable and curable illnesses. Experts agree that colon cancer harms & kills Black people in greater numbers, than other populations.

I’m recalling being told that I shouldn’t worry about having a colonoscopy until after turning 50. I’ll admit I still avoided it for a couple years. There were polyps — which are known to be slow-growing. Thank God they weren’t cancerous. But, again, the conventional message has been, “Don’t worry about a colonoscopy until you turn 50”. Chadwick died at 43. He had already been battling the disease for four years. Clearly, some medical messaging & advice needs to be updated to reflect our realities.

Sidebar…

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A Wakanda Moment! A quick headcount confirms 13 of us were in the photo. A sonogram affirmed we had company. Little Mason is now two.

My dad survived two bouts with prostate cancer, but pancreatic cancer took an unsurvivable toll. On the eve of my father’s funeral, Ron, one of my oldest and best friends, suggested we go to check out Black Panther. Most folks don’t think about going to the movies on the eve of a home going, but, it was Black Panther. The seed was planted and family & friends said let’s do it. Including my sister who has just flown in from across the country. It was opening weekend, and we hit the suburbs for a late-night show.

I knew everyone, but most of our entourage was meeting for the first time that evening. Our group, united in mourning, celebrated Wakanda together. The spirit of Wakanda is Kwanza 24/7/365 Community/ujima is its essence. If you are from Wakanda, you are family. Period.

On the eve of celebrating the life of my dad, we found some joy on the big screen, through a fictional, beautiful, Black/powerful land called Wakanda. The movie was visually amazing. We celebrated and laughed and and cheered and worried about King T’Challa. We didn’t want the bad guys and their greed, narcissism & selfishness to rob the good people of Wakanda. In the end, good prevails trumps evil. (Read it again.) My dad had a dose of Vibranium, which gave him a little more energy to enjoy the competitive spirit of Bid Whist and spend some time with birth and adopted family a little while longer. I reflected on my dad’s superhero status at his funeral. I reminded us about our need to recognize the real-life superheroes amongst us.

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My dad fought his battle. My dad, humbly, grew into his hero’s status over years. Those who mourned him on that cold day, said so — and meant it.

Say it Loud

Imagine a land where health, wealth and power was equitably accessible. Dr. Akua Ampadu wrote a guide on what healthcare could look like, in her “Black Panther” Guide to Healthcare Utopia.

Don’t we all wish Vibranium was real? Imagine how it could heal and restore the good — and defeat the opposititions, whether human, political or physiological.

Chadwick Boseman fought his real-life battle courageously, yet, privately. When he was interviewed about the movie, and it’s impact, Boseman talked about the thirst for a Black superhero. He saw the love of the movie was rooted in how people want a leader who “cares about the people”. Numerous folks shared their appreciation for him and Black Panther. Jimmy Fallon’s surprise recordings gave Boseman was some of his flowers while he was here. Boseman clearly didn’t want his fans/subjects to worry about him, while a cancerous war raged in his body. So, he kept working and telling our stories.

Sidebar 2

Allison Brown, shared Howard University Bison alum status with Boseman. She, too, recently lost a valiant battle - cancer was the poison. Ironically, Allison was diagnosed around the same time as I learned the severity of my dad’s illness. Allison fought and worked hard, as her countdown clock ticked — she kept on living. She shared her journey, by journaling some of it on Medium. Allison’s passion for her family, justice & village carried her far longer than mere mortal doctors predicted. She and Boseman shared Wakanda on the Hilltop. They found the Vibranium that kept them going.

If only we knew…

‪If we knew Chadwick was hurting, what more could we have done? If we didn’t have the cure, the Vibranium needed to heal him? My sister and I recalled noticing he didn’t appear as well, in recent interviews. He elected to keep his business as his own. He left the attempts to heal him up to ‬the professionals. He had work to do, with the time he had. It was not measured by an earthy clock-keeper. He used his time to love on those in close proximity and inspire those of us who respects him from our own proximity. He left us his body of work and his messages of inspiration & assignment — whether in an interview or a commencement speech.

Divine Irony

The irony that Brother Boseman died on Jackie Robinson Day isn’t lost on me. Like Jackie Robinson, Boseman faced adversaries — physical and prejudicial. Their respective talents were met with opposition. Anti-Black racism thrives in sports & entertainment & the planet.

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Chadwick/T’Challa didn’t need us to lament his last days. He was doing what he needed to do. Allison and my dad did what they needed to do, with the time they had left, too. Our task is to do the same.

We have all the Heroes we need

Heroes aren’t necessarily born heroes, it is a becoming process. We have a duty to grow into the heroes we should be. That doesn’t mean grabbing headlines or jockeying to secure any award or reward. We must be heroic where we are and with what we do — not for shine, but to fulfill our calling to be a blessing to someone else. We must do our job to lift up heroes in our midst. Our blessings allow us to be a blessing. We must celebrate and support the heroes and invest in the heroes-to-be around us — and, understand that celebrating others doesn’t diminish us. At. All.

The real and fictional heroes, Brother Boseman interpreted for us, served as reminders that heroes are everywhere and hold myriad occupations. Heroes can hurt and need healing, too. ‪

Real heroes are also mortal. They, not we, mustn’t be denied access to experts to help heal & preserve our temples.

Brothers & sisters, get those screenings and tests as early as possible & as often as necessary. We need MORE preventive care, not stage 4 diagnoses.

Use your power to make sure our communities have the resources they need, so ‘Rona, cancer, sugar, hypertension, anti-Black racism, voter suppression, and other societal ills don’t decimate us. We will mourn, as needed. We may get sick. We may get tired. But, we always have something we can do to make this place better for us and those who come after us. Chadwick, Allison, Dad, Mom & countless others have run their races. Are you running your best race?

Rest in Power Chadwick Boseman, Allison Brown, Dad, Mom and so many more who we have had to mourn individually or collectively. May we all find strength & power within, and amongst us, to build #WakandaForever. ‬

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