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Moviegoers are praising this breakout character of 'Black Panther' for an amazing reason.

'Black Panther' is groundbreaking, but this brainy teen could change the world.

Meet Shuri.

Image via Marvel Entertainment.

Shuri is the wildly brilliant 16-year-old sister of T’Challa, who is king of Wakanda and the Black Panther.  


[rebelmouse-image 19472992 dam="1" original_size="716x298" caption="GIF from "Black Panther."" expand=1]GIF from "Black Panther."

In "Black Panther," we see the charming hero take to the crazy streets to capture villains, utilizing vibranium — Wakanda's invaluable and sought after metal — to keep Wakanda moving forward, mastering technologically advanced vehicles to chase villains and having the super suit and shoes to match.  

Guess who created all of those cool superhero tools?

[rebelmouse-image 19472993 dam="1" original_size="600x600" caption="GIF from "Black Panther."" expand=1]GIF from "Black Panther."

That’s right — young, brilliant Shuri.

T'Challa is dependent on Shuri’s creative, unique inventions and operations. Without her work, T'Challa couldn't succeed, and she plays a leading role in the fight for the survival of Wakanda.  

Basically Shuri, played by Letitia Wright, is a total badass genius. Oh, and she’s pretty brave and hilarious while doing it.

Moviegoers are singing praises for the character and the amazing opportunity she represents.

Shuri is lifted up as a black woman running the game in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM fields, as they're called). It's a portrayal of black women that audiences rarely see, and that representation is making waves.

Shuri is leading the most technologically advanced society in the dream African world of Wakanda. It's an incredible statement of how black women can and should be leaders in STEM fields.    

Shuri isn't there to be the romantic lead. She's not flighty, swooning, or presented as a prop of sexual desire. She doesn't need to be saved. She has her own story.Action movies haven’t historically represented women well and especially not women who are interested in science and tech. "Black Panther" has flipped that narrative on its head.

[rebelmouse-image 19472994 dam="1" original_size="564x309" caption="GIF from "Black Panther."" expand=1]GIF from "Black Panther."

Shuri’s brilliance is vital to keeping the vibrant society afloat and for defending it. She shows that women can successfully do whatever they want and believe, and society will greatly benefit from that.  

Unfortunately, this fact has been largely ignored in film, and in real life history. Scientists and technological wizards in film are often portrayed by white men, likely because of how the STEM industry looks like in the real world.

The disparity between men and women in STEM is staggering.

The numbers don't lie.

Women make up only 24% of the country's STEM workers, and the numbers are even smaller for black women. In 2012, black women took a total of 684 STEM degrees, in comparison to 6,777 for white men and 8,478 for white women.  

Despite these statistics, Shuri’s character shows just how awesome and creative the STEM field can be when we amplify opportunities for black women and create spaces for them to lead.

And Wright understands the gravity and importance of her character.      

Photo by Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images for Disney.

"[Shuri] shows that when you have people coming together to just take time to make characters well-rounded, well-thought-out, not one way, amazing things like that happen," Wright told HuffPost. "Having a character arc and journey is refreshing, so it’s good writing ... Now there’s a breakthrough of [audiences] seeing people [they] relate to and that’s refreshing."

Despite being ignored in STEM, disrespected by male counterparts, and left out of opportunities, women of color have made historic STEM contributions.

And these same accomplished black women are paving the way for future people of color to break through.

Organizations like Black Girls Code, The National Girls Collaborative Project, and the STEM Society for Women of Color, are working to make sure that girls of color are aware of the opportunities available to them and that they have the support needed to succeed.  

Shuri in "Black Panther" is showing black girls — hell, all black kids — just how essential their intelligence can be.

Let’s make sure that our society continues to make this story a reality in real life, too.    

Image via Marvel Entertainment.

All illustrations are provided by Soosh and used with permission.

I have plenty of space.

This article originally appeared on 04.09.16


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