As if 2020 hasn’t been hard enough, this weekend we lost a true social change warrior, Ruth Bader Ginsburg. A stalwart for gender equality, she spent her life working to make life better for women.
Her death came on the heels of the death of another champion for those who have been held back — Chadwick Boseman. The star of the Black Panther movie — which was about so much more than superheroes — spent his life demonstrating inner power and self-determination.
Boseman made a career of eschewing typical Hollywood racial stereotypes and instead demonstrating the deep, complex nature of the characters he played. He viewed this as his true purpose on earth:
When I dared to challenge the systems that would relegate us to victims and stereotypes with no clear historical backgrounds, no hopes or talents, when I questioned that method of portrayal, a different path opened up for me — a path to my destiny. When God has something for you, it doesn’t matter who stands against it.”
In fulfilling his purpose, he gave those who watched his films the opportunity to see bigger roles for themselves, too. Just as Ginsburg gave women the legal tools to empower and liberate themselves.
Losing these two social change warriors is devastating, to be sure, especially in the midst of an already agonizing year. But what if it is also a clarion call to each of us?
What if in exiting this life, these two powerhouses were offering us a challenge — a challenge to step into the potent shoes they left behind?
These two leaders showed us how to step beyond unfair or limited circumstances and imagine and then create something much better, much more powerful.
Both Boseman and Ginsburg figured out and then fully embraced their purpose. As RGB once said:
[I would like to be remembered as] someone who used whatever talent she had to do her work to the very best of her ability. And to help repair tears in her society, to make things a little better through the use of whatever ability she has.”
But now their purpose is complete. And perhaps they don’t need to be our superheroes anymore because we no longer need superheroes. Maybe we are now ready to start stepping into our own individual power, to start — each one of us — standing up for ourselves and for each other.
Perhaps Boseman and Ginsburg have passed the baton.
Their life purposes were simple, but had larger than life results. What if that were true for every single one of us? What if each of us has a simple purpose to use whatever talent we’ve been given to the best of our ability? But to do that we must fully step into our own power and fully acknowledge that we don’t need anyone to save us. Because we have the power to save ourselves.
To me, that is what Ginsburg and Boseman taught us.
I write about how social change leaders can step into their power in my upcoming book, Reinventing Social Change, out February 2021. To get book release updates and early access to the book, make sure to sign up for the Social Velocity e-list here.
Photo Credit: Ted Eytan