Kids hold solemn memorials with ‘Black Panther’ toys
A 7-year-old boy from Saint Louis held a funeral fit for a king.
Kian Westbrook was “heartbroken” by the death of Chadwick Boseman, who died from colon cancer Friday at age 43. His father, King Westbrook, shared a solemn photo of his son performing the Wakanda Salute alongside Marvel action figures at an impromptu memorial for Boseman’s Black Panther.
The photo quickly went viral on Twitter, garnering over 615K likes.
“The news hit Kian pretty hard,” Westbrook told USA TODAY Monday. “He was saddened that a person so young and someone he loved so much had passed away so suddenly.”
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Turns out, the memorial was all Kian’s idea. When his mother, Leslie Glass-Westbrook, asked how Kian wanted to say goodbye to Boseman and Black Panther, the Marvel fan took a page right out of the “Avenger: Endgame” playbook.
“Kian said he wanted to do something similar to the memorial that was held for Iron Man in the last ‘Avengers’ movie when (Tony Stark) died,” Westbrook said. “How all of the Avengers were present and how they were able to send him off that way.”
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So Kian lined up all of the Marvel action figures he received for his 7th birthday in June. (Even arch enemy Thanos was invited.) With the help of his mother, Kian laid his Black Panther figurine to rest on a shoe box flanked with flowers to bid farewell to his favorite superhero and the man who gave him life.
“For him to be able to see a superhero that looks like him is what was most important to him,” Westbrook said. “He knew the Black Panther was a fictional character, but he enjoyed believing that he himself could one day become the leader of a country or a strong Black superhero.”
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The significance of the image resonated with hundreds of thousands of Marvel fans across the world. Many other children honored Boseman with similar tributes, which Westbrook called a “blessing.”
“I had no idea that it would receive the attention that it did,” Westbrook said. “That was only because people around the world are mourning for Chadwick Boseman. The way my son wanted to honor him helped give other people closure or helped them mourn.”
Mark Ruffalo, who portrays Bruce Banner/Hulk in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, shared several pictures of similar child tributes with action figures.
On Monday, Westbrook said he was “extremely proud of his son” and credits Boseman for being a “great human being” and “positive role model” for the next generation.
“My love for the Black Panther came through the eyes of my son,” he added. “It was great for him to see representation of a strong, Black, powerful comic book character.”
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