By Lenore T. Adkins, Special to the AFRO
The “Black Panther” is taking over Howard University, delivering the Washington, D.C. school’s commencement address on May 12.
Chadwick Boseman, an actor and Howard alum, will also receive an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree during the ceremony, the school announced April 18. The honorary degree represents the school’s highest honor.
“I’m excited to return to the Mecca in celebration of the achievements of our illustrious students,” Boseman said in a statement. “Let’s listen, learn and build with one another.”
In Marvel’s “Black Panther,” Boseman, 40, stars as King T’Challa, ruler of Wakanda, a fictional, futuristic African nation. The king morphs into the Black Panther when he’s defending his country against various threats.
The flick, the first blockbuster featuring a Black superhero, smashed box-office records. It not only upended stereotypes about Africans and Black women, but it also became a cultural phenomenon, proving that a movie with a mostly Black cast can succeed in Hollywood.
Before his star turn in “Black Panther,” the South Carolina native played iconic and legendary African Americans, including Jackie Robinson, James Brown and Thurgood Marshall, another Howard alum.
Boseman has had quite a year.
Earlier this month, he hosted “Saturday Night Live” with Cardi B and reprised his King T’Challa role for the show’s “Black Jeopardy” sketch. On April 19, Time magazine listed Boseman as one of the world’s 100 most influential people. Boseman will next appear in the forthcoming “Avengers: Infinity War.” He’s also signed on to star in “Expatriate,” a film he co-wrote with fellow Howard alum Logan Coles — Oscar-winning director Barry Jenkins of “Moonlight” has signed on to direct the movie.
Howard University President Wayne A. Frederick said it’s an “incredible honor and privilege” to welcome Boseman back to Howard.
“His recent role in the blockbuster film ‘Black Panther’ reminds us of the excellence found in the African diaspora and how places like Howard are hidden, untapped gems producing the next generation of scientists, engineers and doctors,” Frederick said in a statement. “Mr. Boseman exemplifies the monumental heights and levels Howard graduates can achieve by using the skills and knowledge they acquired at the university.”