Producer and writer Logan Coles first met Chadwick Boseman, who died Aug. 28 of colon cancer at age 43, when they were students at Howard University. After bonding over their love of the arts, the pair would go on to produce films like “21 Bridges” and “Message from the King,” fighting hard to promote Black stories right up to the end of the “Black Panther” star’s life. Coles shares those memories here, writing a message to his “brother, friend and comrade.”
Iron Sharpens Iron
Not sure where to begin. Where to end. What to include. No way to sum up our friendship and collaborations in mere words. Twenty-six letters in the alphabet aren’t enough. Written words and paragraphs seem insufficient in articulating all that is in my head and on my heart. But I’ll start by expressing gratitude. Even amidst my immense sorrow, I’m grateful. Grateful for the outpouring of love for Chadwick’s family during this extremely difficult time. Grateful to Chad’s family for sharing their beloved son, brother, uncle, and husband with the world. They’ve handled everything with such grace that I’m in absolute awe. And I’m eternally grateful for my dear brother Chad. God doesn’t bless us with too many people who literally transform our lives. My friendship with Bose profoundly transformed mine.
I remember meeting him back at Howard on the steps of the Fine Arts building. He’d sit with his signature incense burning in his mini afro. Playing the guitar. Humming along like a character fresh out an August Wilson play. Anybody who went to HU with us remembers this version of Chad! I was a fan of his art and inspired by his seemingly indefatigable work ethic even back then. I mean, the brother wrote, directed and acted in the hip-hop theater trifecta – “Rhyme Deferred,” “Hieroglyphic Graffiti” and “Deep Azure,” all before the world knew him as a superhero. But to me, a 20-year-old college student who was trying to find his voice as an artist, Chad was my writing and directing superhero. I couldn’t believe someone could write something so dope. He was like a mad scientist who figured out how to fuse Nas with Shakespeare and spit it all over a smooth J Dilla beat. It was hip-hop theater perfection. And it lit a fire in my soul. I told myself back then that I had to get cool with this brother ‘cuz he was on some next level-ness!
I don’t know if either of us knew then the journey God would take us on together. And what A JOURNEY this has been. From rehearsing a full play in a hotel room at the National Black Theater festival, to hanging out at each other’s apartments in Brooklyn writing our first screenplay together, to planting the seed for a producing partnership that would allow us to share all we’d written with the world while also lending our support to projects and artists who spoke to our collective purpose of uplifting black people and telling transformative stories.
We made a lot of rookie mistakes along the way. But we always grew as artists. As writers. As producers. As brothers. We spent more time in rooms writing, and re-writing, and arguing, and building, and freestyling than I can count or even fully remember. And all the while he was teaching me. Even when I didn’t realize it. Trust the process. Do the work. Be still and listen to the spirit. Let it guide you. Be intentional and unapologetically Black.
Bose taught me patience. Fearlessness. Diligence. To be guided by the spirit of God and the ancestors in all things art and life. All those countless late-night writing sessions when we’d hit a bump in the flow at 4 a.m. and he’d stretch out on the floor and close his eyes and I’d be like, “Did this dude really just fall asleep?” And I’d sit there, staring at my computer, trying to make sense of some scene or monologue or story beat. And then all of a sudden out of nowhere he’d pop up, open his eyes and say, “I got it!” And then brilliance would flow effortlessly out his mouth. It was as if he was meditating and the Ancestors whispered into his ear the solution and he couldn’t wait to share their wisdom on this earthly plane. That’s Chad. Aharon Sun of the Griots. A vessel for the Ancestor’s wisdom. A preacher — here to share God’s word. A teacher dropping jewels. A fighter going twelve rounds with the champ. A poet. A prophet. An artist’s artist.
I think above all, what I’ll continue to take with me is Chad’s understanding of time and purpose. He was very clear about the finite amount of time that we’re given on this earth. And with that finite amount of years, months, days, hours and minutes we must choose wisely how we spend it. He’d challenge me about what projects and people are worthy of that sacrifice and investment of time. He knew his purpose precisely and was not keen to deviate from it or allot time to that which didn’t serve it. He was purposeful and purpose-filled.
And while he didn’t waste time, he was never in a rush. No matter what, Bose was going to take his time. Anyone who knew him knew that he could not be rushed. But he always made time for what was important to him. Family was important to him. He always made time for them. Art that was meaningful and impactful was important. He made time for that. Roles that spoke to what he believed and wanted to put out into the world were important to him. He made time for that.
But Chad also knew the power of saying, “No.” If it did not align with his purpose, he said “No.” I watched as he refused more money, more roles and more projects than he accepted. And that wasn’t easy early in his career. Saying “No” was a true sacrifice then. It meant going on a “water fast,” not because you wanted to, but because that’s all you could afford to buy. But, Chad knew his purpose and wasn’t going to waste time, deviate or pick up anything off the table that was not for him.
He was purposeful and purpose-filled. I’ve never seen someone so strong push through so much pain in order to fulfill his purpose on this earth. There were days I’d ask him how he was doing and he’d simple reply, “Pushing through, brother.” I watched as he gritted his teeth and took deep breaths as he battled the immeasurable pain of tumors and the debilitating effect of chemo in order sit through a scriptwriting session or to arrive on set and act a scene or to be the consummate movie star as we sat through studio pitch meetings. I was in absolute awe of him in these moments. He never let on that he was in any pain or discomfort. He’d just push through. With silent dignity and resolve to fulfill his purpose. It was his greatest performance. He knew what God put him on this earth to do and he didn’t want people knowing or focusing on his battles and not his work. It was his process. His struggle. He was determined to push through.
In our last conversation about work he said to me, “Tell ‘em what we did. Tell them all the work that was done and what I had to go through to tell those stories.” I said I would, but holding out hope I also added, “But I want us to do it together bruh, like we’d set out to do all those years ago. We’ve got so many un-shot screenplays, too many unproduced movies. All these dope ideas of stories to tell about Black folks that we want the world to see.” Selfishly I wanted to do it together. Silently I was unsure how I’d do it alone. As we talked more, he told me, “Don’t be scared.” To think, even amid all that he was going through in that moment he wanted to make sure that I was okay. He looked deeply at me, like only Bose could do, and he transferred a wealth of silent strength to me even as he grew weaker. That’s who he was. I almost broke down in that moment, but I didn’t. If he was going to face this moment with quiet resolve and dignity and peace, then I couldn’t be scared.
In that last conversation he also said to me, “…You better not stop, hear me?’ And I nodded and simply replied, “Okay.” I’m still not sure I know how to do that, but I’m listening to my brother and I’m going to push through. His voice continues to ring out in my head. In my heart. And so I have no choice, but to push through. I’m going to keep going because I received direct orders from the King. I look forward to sitting and writing at 4 a.m. and hitting a bump and then stretching out on the floor and closing my eyes and listening for him. I look forward to hearing my brother-ancestor whisper in my ear. Telling me what I need to hear in order to keep pushing.
The last thing I said to him as I touched his head and left his presence is “You my brother, are a GIANT.” And he is indeed. He’s the people’s King, but before all that he was a dutiful son, a brother, an uncle and a husband. And he was my friend. The lifelong kind. From infinity to infinity. Iron sharpens iron.
Chadwick’s legacy will live on. Bose’s name will vibrate throughout the ages. His impact will be felt across generations. His love, humility, and unwavering determination will serve as a guide to those who are passed the baton in this relay race. Brother Chad, you’ve earned your rest King. No more pain. Hug my mommy for me and let her know we’re alright and we’re going to continue to push through. “To glory. Amen. Ase.”