I have been frequently awed by Ta-Nehisi Coates's thoughtful observations on politics and race in America. But I'll be honest: I was somewhat disappointed by his first run of Black Panther comics. It felt, to me, more like a Coates essay accompanied by some action sequences. The ideas were there, and the art by Brian Stelfreeze was spectacular, but it just didn't grip me as a dramatic narrative. (His Captain America, illustrated by Leinil Francis Yu and others, has left me similarly cold.)
Fortunately, Coates is a certified MacArthur genius, and a deft enough writer that he learned on the job with an impressive swiftness. I read the first eighteen issues of Coates and Daniel Acuña's epic Black Panther space opera The Intergalactic Empire of Wakanda in just two days, and am eager to devour the rest once it's available (I read most of my comics on Marvel Unlimited).
So to tide myself over, I decided to check out Coates's brief run on Black Panther and the Crew with illustrator Butch Guice. A nod to or revival of Christopher Priest's similarly Panther-inspired 2003 series, The Crew, the comic brings T'Challa to Harlem, in a loose team-up with some other Harlem-affiliated superheroes, including Luke Cage, Misty Knight, and Storm from the X-Men. It's an intergenerational story about Black liberation and revolution, that begins with the death of an elderly Black activist in police custody during a series of ongoing protests against racist police brutality. The conspiracy at the heart of the murder mystery organically weaves in gentrification, astroturfed agitators undermining protests, and algorithmic policing that's never as unbiased as it claims. Read the rest
On this Juneteenth, I thought I'd share two things I've just learned:
1. It's not ok to use the word "slave." It's dehumanizing. We should use "enslaved" instead. Watch the video with Ta-Nehisi Coates and Oprah to understand why better.
2. It's time we start using a capital B for Black:
...Temple University journalism professor Lori L. Tharps had this to say: “When speaking of a culture, ethnicity or group of people, the name should be capitalized. Black with a capital B refers to people of the African diaspora. Lowercase black is simply a color.”
Tharps’s argument highlights the fact that Black people have a common cultural identity of history, art, community, and shared experiences. Most Black Americans lack a specific geographic identity, as they are unable to conclusively trace roots back to a specific country of origin due to enslavement. That lack of shared geography is actually part of what binds Black people together. And while “African American” is a fine terminology choice, it is sometimes considered inadequately representative by Black Americans with recent Caribbean or British lineage, for example, or those who have recently emigrated to the United States from Africa.
Thanks, A! Read the rest
It's been five years since Ta-Nehisi Coates's groundbreaking The Case for Reparations ran in The Atlantic; yesterday, Coates appeared before Congress to celebrate Juneteenth with a barn-burning statement that starts as a response to Mitch McConnell's dismissal of racial injustice in America, but quickly becomes more than that -- a Coatesian masterclass in understanding race, America, history and the present moment.
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Author and journalist Ta-Nehisi Coates was speaking at a public event recently and was asked by a student if it is OK for white hip-hop fans to rap along to songs with the n-word in them. His answer is both humorous and illuminating.
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Ta-Nehisi Coates's 17,000-word history of the Obama presidency in the Atlantic is called "My President Was Black," but it's about the very special kind of blackness that Obama embodied -- not because whites saw the biracial politician differently, but because Obama's extraordinarily supportive white family and unique boyhood in Hawai'i spared him the racial trauma visited on other young black people in America. Read the rest
2016 is going to be a big year for Black Panther. Not only will the first black superhero finally make his way to the silver screen for the first time in Captain America: Civil War, but Marvel Comics just announced a surprising but welcome name for the new writer of the Black Panther comic: Ta-Nehisi Coates.
Coates has long been a correspondent for The Atlantic, where he's authored some tremendous pieces on the subject of race, including "The Case for Reparations." More recently, he was was named one of ten finalists for the National Book Award in nonfiction for his book Between the World and Me.
Coates has long been a fan of superhero comic books, which he calls "an intimate part of my childhood." At the Times, he recalls reading Marvel comics in the 1980s and encountering black characters like Storm, Monica Rambeau and James Rhodes in their pages. “I’m sure it meant something to see people who looked like me in comic books," he said. "It was this beautiful place that I felt pop culture should look like.”
The announcement follows some recent controversy over of the lack of black creators among Marvel Comics. While the addition of a single writer isn't an instantaneous fix to a more systematic issue of diversity, it's hard to imagine a single writer who would be a better pick for Marvel than Coates.
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