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'Redefining The Idea Of A Hero': New Yorkers Say Chadwick Boseman's Legacy Touched Their Lives

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Many movie fans are still in shock after learning of the death of actor Chadwick Boseman.

The 43-year-old died after privately battling colon cancer for four years.

On the streets of New York, Boseman's death is hitting people hard.

"I was shocked," said Jean Carlos Bonilla. "I had no idea he had cancer, no idea he was even sick."

"As a young Black man, you know, people looked up to him, and I respect that," said Francisco Moya.

Thirteen-year-old Brehima Gueye says watching Boseman in the 2018 Marvel film "Black Panther" gave him purpose and a sense of pride.

"Kind of the first movie that, like, really embraced Black people and, like, the Black Lives Matter movement," Brehima said.

Premiere Of Disney And Marvel's "Black Panther" - Red Carpet
HOLLYWOOD, CA - JANUARY 29: Actor Chadwick Boseman attends the premiere of Disney and Marvel's "Black Panther" at Dolby Theatre on January 29, 2018 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Emma McIntyre/Getty Images)

In an interview, Boseman described how his role was resonating with people all over.

"It's taken on its own meaning right now," he said. "I'm seeing that it's a cultural experience, being the Black Panther."

Before Boseman was cast as the Black Panther, he played 20th century legends like Jackie Robinson and James Brown.

But it was his work at Harlem's Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture that also left an impact.

The New York Public Library released a statement saying Boseman taught acting to students in its junior schools program back in 2008, adding, "His work embodied the principles and possibilities of Black culture and history, redefining the idea of a hero."

Some fans say he made them feel powerful, made them feel seen and in many cases, gave them a sense of pride.

One mom told CBS2's Cory James that part of Boseman's legacy touched her 4-year-old son.

"My son is very, very fair skinned, and ever since he seen 'Black Panther,' he was like, I'm Black," she said. "So hopefully somebody is able to match his caliber of knowledge and acting."

Family members say Boseman was a true fighter who continued to work while undergoing surgeries and chemotherapy for colon cancer that progressed to stage four.

The 43-year-old died at his home in Los Angeles while surrounded by loved ones.

While Boseman's journey on earth is over, his legacy both on and off the big screen will stay in people's hearts and minds forever.

"I think the fact that he did so much at such a young age will continue to live on way beyond his short life of 43 years," Bonilla said.

"I love you, Chadwick," Brehima said. "Wakanda forever, basically, Wakanda forever."

Boseman was born in South Carolina. The governor there has ordered the statehouse flags to be lowered to half-staff Sunday to honor the actor's life.

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