The death of Chadwick Boseman, who lost his battle with colon cancer this weekend, hurts so much. I saw only a few of his films, but seeing him as the Black Panther really connected with me.

It was refreshing to see a Black man, so strong, poised, and heroic, leading the fictional country of Wakanda. The Blackness in the film was so beautiful and elegant, and I was even reminded, as fictional as the universe was, that Black is not only beautiful but powerful. Boseman helped me remember that.

And sometimes I need the reminder, because over the years, I’m not afraid to say, sometimes the world can make you forget such a thing. In a world that is constantly whitewashed, it was inspiring to see people in the film who looked like me portrayed in a positive light. To see Black people portrayed as saviors and defenders of what is rightly theirs is a wonderful thing. It’s something that I have been heartened to witness this summer while watching the peaceful protests throughout the city and world in the name of racial equality.

Boseman’s death hits so hard as I watch the countless tributes and special showings of his recent films. Just realizing that he persevered and worked that much harder, despite his diagnosis with colon cancer as a young man, makes the hurt I feel that much deeper.

I can only imagine how those who are much younger than me feel about Boseman’s passing and his portrayal of T’Challa, and how heartbroken they are. Boseman was much more than an actor; he was our king. An example of what Black people are and what we will always be, despite what others want to make us out as.

The Black community needed Boseman, not just because he portrayed T’Challa, but because he represented so much more to us. He represented what it meant to be young, Black, and creative. And he will continue to do so even after his passing.

White people who read this cannot understand the pain that people of color are going through right now, because they can always see themselves portrayed strong and true, especially in the superhero film genre.

The grief of losing this man I never knew is real. I know that we have to keep going, but man, is it hard. As a Black person, I can tell you that we are so tired of being in so much pain. We are truly losing a lot this year. We’ve lost so many great Black men these past few years from violence, racism, and disease. George Floyd, Philando Castile, Alton Sterling, the list goes on.

For Black people, it can feel like we are able to have such great leaders who are beautiful and intelligent, but around for only a limited amount of time. And when they are gone, we are left to grieve and continue on without them, even when we don’t want to.

As the weight of 2020 hangs on me and my Black community, it just seems more of a challenge now. Even more than when Thanos snapped T’Challa and Shuri out of existence. But we have to carry on our long-fought battles. We have to create a world that is not fictional like Wakanda, where justice and equality for people of color are real and obtainable.

A world where we can just live in our own homes, walk safely through parks, and not be considered a mob when we protest.

Peak Johnson is a North Philadelphia resident, freelance journalist, and editor of the Emerging International Journalists Program at Global Philadelphia.