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Black Panther comics co-writer emphasizes storytelling in promoting inclusion

Nnedi Okorafor talked about African-rooted science fiction Thursday, May 10

EVANSTON - Award-winning novelist Nnedi Okorafor, co-writer of the Black Panther comics believes honest and authentic storytelling is one of the most effective ways of promoting diversity.

Speaking to a crowded auditorium at the Kellogg School of Management Thursday, Okorafor said we should allow things to be what they are.

“Storytelling can address issues when it’s at its most honest” because storytelling is one of the few ways we can experience other lives.

The renowned Nigerian-American novelist lamented that the storyline in the blockbuster Black Panther movie -- adapted from the comics she helped envision -- focused too much on royalty and not enough on regular people.

Okorafor would have liked to have seen a few more Wakandans in Wakanda.

“We don’t see actual Wakandans,” Okorafor said. “I felt they were just window dressing. We don’t hear their voices. When Killmonger takes over Wakanda, what are the people doing?”

Chris Abani, Board of Trustees professor of English at the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences led the discussion, interspersing his questions to Okorafor with candid humor.

The talk was co-sponsored by The Kellogg Africa Business Club and the Buffett Institute for Global Studies.

The widely acclaimed Black Panther movie has revived conversations about Afrofuturism and brought the issue to the global stage.

Tackling the hype around Afrofutursim, Okorafor said her relationship with the word is fraught and somewhat confusing. She said she didn’t adopt the phrase at first but learned to live with it.

About the speaker
Okorafor writes African-based science fiction, fantasy and magical realism for both children and adults. Her latest works include her novel “The Book of Phoenix,” her Binti Trilogy and her children’s book “Chicken in the Kitchen.” Okorafor's novel, “Who Fears Death,” will be turned into a television series on HBO with Game of Thrones creator George R. R. Martin as executive producer.