The 2020 Gotham Awards posthumously honored actor Chadwick Boseman with the Actor Tribute on Monday night. His wife, Taylor Simone Ledward, who gave a virtual acceptance speech, said it was an honor to receive the award on behalf of her husband and that it was “in acknowledgement not only of his profound work, but of his impact on this industry and this world.” Boseman died in August 2020 after a private four-year battle with colon cancer.

Simone’s Tribute to Chadwick

In an emotional acceptance speech, Ledward honored her late husband by sharing the actor’s approach to life and his work. “He was the most honest person I’d ever met because he didn’t just stop at speaking the truth: he actively searched for it in himself and those around him and in the moment,” she said of the actor, who was diagnosed with stage III colon cancer in 2016. “The truth can be a very easy thing for the self to avoid, but if one does not live in truth then it’s impossible to live in line with the divine purpose for your life. And so it became how he lived his life, day in and out. Imperfect but determined.” Monday’s speech was Ledward’s first public statement about her husband since his death. “Chad, thank you. I love you. I am so proud of you,” she said through tears. “Keep shining your light on us.”

Together Through Thick & Thin

The Black Panther actor reportedly married fiancé Ledward just months before his death in August. It is unclear when the couple actually met, but they are said to have been dating since 2015. Ledward’s grandmother confirmed the news in 2018, after the couple was spotted together at an NBA All-Star game in LA. “She’s very happy, and he is too,” she revealed to In Touch Boseman kept his relationship with Ledward private, although she accompanied him to many events throughout their five-year relationship. At the 2019 NAACP Image Awards, Boseman publicly acknowledged their relationship for the first time as he accepted his award for Outstanding Actor in a Motion Picture. “Simone, you’re with me everyday. I have to acknowledge you right now. Love you,” said the actor.

Chadwick’s Gotham Awards Tribute

The Gotham Awards honored Boseman for his work in his last film, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. According to his costars, Boseman actually learned how to play the trumpet for his role as Levee, an ambitious and talented trumpet player. The film is based on a play by Pulitzer Prize-winner August Wilson and tells the story of famous blues singer Ma Rainey, and her experience with white record executives in 1920s Chicago. Jeffery Sharp, executive director of IFP (Independent Filmmaker Project) the non-profit that holds the Gotham Awards, praised Boseman for his involvement in the organization. “We at IFP are forever indebted to him for all of his contributions to our organization, his legacy in providing mentorship and we are proud to honor him and all of his historical and groundbreaking contributions with this tribute,” Sharp said of the Ma Rainey actor.

Chadwick’s Co-Star Viola Davis Also Honored

Boseman’s Ma Rainey co-star Viola Davis received this year’s Actress Tribute, making it the first time in its 30-year history that The Gotham Awards chose two actors from the same film for the tributes. They recognized the Oscar, Emmy, and Tony Award-winning actress for her portrayal of the iconic “Mother of the Blues”, Ma Rainey. In her speech, Davis expressed the honor she felt in being a part of August Wilson and Ma Rainey’s legacy. “You can leave something for people, or you can leave something in people. That’s what August did,” she said. Davis won an Academy Award in 2017 for her role in another August Wilson inspired film Fenceswhich was based off of Wilson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play of the same name.

About The Gotham Awards

The Gotham Awards are considered the first major event of awards season, and serve as a powerful platform to launch independent filmmakers into the national awards season spotlight. Although they are usually held in November, the 2020 event got postponed to January 2021 because of the pandemic. Monday’s awards were live-streamed from Cipriani Wall Street in New York City and featured a hybrid virtual ceremony. But as most of us have experienced this year, technology is not always reliable—especially when you need it the most. Variety reported delays and other sound and visual issues during the ceremony. Will this be the new normal for the rest of 2021’s award shows? Stay tuned for more awards season coverage from CELEB.