Black Panther’s Chadwick Boseman returned to Howard University to inspire graduates to use their education to make the world a better place.
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Boseman, who graduated from the historically black university with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in 2000, lauded students for their on-campus activism in his commencement speech. The actor revealed he had also protested against the university when he studied at Howard.
“You love the university enough to struggle with it,” he told the crowd. “Now you have to continue to do that … everything that you fought for was not for yourself. It was for those who come after.”
Students successfully protested earlier this year to demand the university provide enough housing for younger students, disarm on-campus police officers, act on sexual assault, and limit price hikes on tuition.
Boseman said the protests were promising, given many of the students will face discrimination and marginalization in the institutions they enter.
“The fact you have struggled with this university you’ve loved is a sign you can use your education to improve the world you are entering,” he said.
The actor spoke of his first television role, in which he played a young, black man with a violent streak, pulled into the world of gangs.
“I was conflicted, because this role seemed to be wrapped up in assumptions about us as black folk. The writing failed to search for specificity. Plus, there was barely a glimpse of positivity or talent in the character — barely a glimpse of hope,” he said.
After two episodes, Boseman was pulled into a meeting with the executives of the show, who were happy with his performance and eager to keep him on. They asked if there was anything he needed.
Boseman raised his concerns about the stereotypical nature of the show’s character to the executives, who then subsequently fired him.
“What do you do when the principles and standards that were instilled in you here at Howard close the doors in front of you? Sometimes you need to get knocked down before you can really figure out what your fight is. And how you need to fight it,” he said.
Of course, Boseman ended his speech with a Wakanda salute, but told students “Howard forever” instead.