This black superhero has been around for 50 years. But only 3 black men have ever written him.

You've probably heard of the Black Panthers, but have you heard of the comic book character Black Panther?


"Black Panther" #1 cover by Brian Stelfreeze. Image via Marvel, used with permission.

Also known as T'Challa, Black Panther was first introduced to Marvel Comics readers in an issue of "Fantastic Four," way back in 1966. (Fun fact: Technically, he predated the founding of the Black Panthers political party by a few months, buuut predecessor groups had already been using the panther symbol.)


T'Challa is the leader of the fictional kingdom of Wakanda, an advanced African nation. In addition to his own intelligence and scientific prowess, T'Challa also possesses superhuman strength, speed, and senses gifted to him by the Wakandan Panther God ... because comics. He's been a member of the Avengers and the Fantastic Four and even has his own movie coming out in 2017.

So, yeah, he's kind of a big deal.


Chadwick Boseman will portray Black Panther in the upcoming Marvel studios film, as well as "Captain America 3: Civil War." He's pictured here, center, between Robert Downey Jr. and Chris Evans, whom you probably already recognize as Iron Man and Captain America, respectively. Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for Disney.

As if that weren't awesome enough, Marvel Comics recently announced that acclaimed author Ta-Nehisi Coates will be the new writer for Black Panther's adventures.

Coates is best known for his writing at The Atlantic. That's where you probably came across his must-read story "The Case for Reparations." He's also published two nonfiction books and was recently nominated for a National Book Award.


Ta-Nehisi Coates at the University of Michigan. Photo by Sean Carter Photography/Flickr.


So he's kind of a big deal, too. And a comics super-fan.

Coates recently talked to The New York Times about his childhood affection for black superheroes like Black Panther, War Machine, and Monica Rambeau: "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."

He's also having some fun with bringing his reputation as a serious political writer to the land of superhero comics:

Get excited, folks: Coates will be joined by artist Brian Stelfreeze, who is also black, for a storyline titled "A Nation Under Our Feet," after the well-known Steven Hahn book about black political struggles.

And it's about time, too — Coates is only the third black writer to ever script a Black Panther comic book.

Like most of the early Marvel superheroes, T'Challa was created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, two Jewish-American men. Sure, they may have had good intentions, and they made him a brilliant scientist. But they also made him an African character with "Black" in his name and gave him a spiritual connection to mystical animal gods. Sigh.

It wasn't until 1998 — more than 30 years after the character's creation — that black comic book writer Christopher Priest took over "Black Panther." His run lasted until 2003 when the series was cancelled. Two years later, Reginald Hudlin, who was then President of Entertainment at BET, was brought in to script a new "Black Panther" series, which ran from 2005 to 2008.

"Black Panther" #1 variant cover by Brian Stelfreeze. Image via Marvel, used with permission.

Yep. For all the strides that have been made in diversity and representation, the comics industry still has a ways to go.

It's so encouraging to see a writer with the pedigree of Ta-Nehisi Coates get handed the reigns to an iconic black superhero like Black Panther.

Still: Coates is only the third black writer in 50 years? Seriously? You don't necessarily have to be black to write a black character. But diverse perspectives matter just as much as diverse representation does. I mean, c'mon — it's 2015! We can do better than that!

As always, superheroes can inspire hope for the future.

Marvel Comics in particular has made headlines recently with the introduction of characters like Miles Morales, an Afro-Hispanic teenager who is now also Spider-Man, and the Muslim-American superteen Ms. Marvel. Both Captain America and Thor have recently handed their respective mantles over to longtime supporting characters as well, giving the comics world a black Captain America (Sam Wilson, aka Falcon) and a female Thor (Jane Foster). There's even a new Korean-American Hulk, written and drawn by two Korean-American creators.

But across the three largest comic book publishers, the vast majority of creators are still white men.

"Black Panther" movie concept art. Image via Marvel, used with permission.

You can look at the comics industry as a microcosm for the rest of the country: Even with the best intentions, change and progress still take time (for better or for worse).

Thankfully, there are people who are genuinely working hard to improve representation, in comics and beyond.

But as always, we still need to strive for better. It takes more than just opening doors to make art and reality reflect the world we share. That's why superhero comics like Black Panther are always "to be continued" — because even when our heroes do prevail, there's always one more battle to be won.

Courtesy of Amita Swadhin
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In 2016, Amita Swadhin, a child of two immigrant parents from India, founded Mirror Memoirs to help combat rape culture. The national storytelling and organizing project is dedicated to sharing the stories of LGBTQIA+ Black, indigenous people, and people of color who survived child sexual abuse.

"Whether or not you are a survivor, 100% of us are raised in rape culture. It's the water that we're swimming in. But just as fish don't know they are in water, because it's just the world around them that they've always been in, people (and especially those who aren't survivors) may need some help actually seeing it," they add.

"Mirror Memoirs attempts to be the dye that helps everyone understand the reality of rape culture."

Amita built the idea for Mirror Memoirs from a theater project called "Undesirable Elements: Secret Survivors" that featured their story and those of four other survivors in New York City, as well as a documentary film and educational toolkit based on the project.

"Secret Survivors had a cast that was gender, race, and age-diverse in many ways, but we had neglected to include transgender women," Amita explains. "Our goal was to help all people who want to co-create a world without child sexual abuse understand that the systems historically meant to help survivors find 'healing' and 'justice' — namely the child welfare system, policing, and prisons — are actually systems that facilitate the rape of children in oppressed communities," Amita continues. "We all have to explore tools of healing and accountability outside of these systems if we truly want to end all forms of sexual violence and rape culture."

Amita also wants Mirror Memoirs to be a place of healing for survivors that have historically been ignored or underserved by anti-violence organizations due to transphobia, homophobia, racism, xenophobia, and white supremacy.

Amita Swadhin

"Hearing survivors' stories is absolutely healing for other survivors, since child sexual abuse is a global pandemic that few people know how to talk about, let alone treat and prevent."

"Since sexual violence is an isolating event, girded by shame and stigma, understanding that you're not alone and connecting with other survivors is alchemy, transmuting isolation into intimacy and connection."

This is something that Amita knows and understands well as a survivor herself.

"My childhood included a lot of violence from my father, including rape and other forms of domestic violence," says Amita. "Mandated reporting was imposed on me when I was 13 and it was largely unhelpful since the prosecutors threatened to incarcerate my mother for 'being complicit' in the violence I experienced, even though she was also abused by my father for years."

What helped them during this time was having the support of others.

"I'm grateful to have had a loving younger sister and a few really close friends, some of whom were also surviving child sexual abuse, though we didn't know how to talk about it at the time," Amita says.

"I'm also a queer, non-binary femme person living with complex post-traumatic stress disorder, and those identities have shaped a lot of my life experiences," they continue. "I'm really lucky to have an incredible partner and network of friends and family who love me."

"These realizations put me on the path of my life's work to end this violence quite early in life," they said.

Amita wants Mirror Memoirs to help build awareness of just how pervasive rape culture is. "One in four girls and one in six boys will be raped or sexually assaulted by the age of 18," Amita explains, "and the rates are even higher for vulnerable populations, such as gender non-conforming, disabled, deaf, unhoused, and institutionalized children." By sharing their stories, they're hoping to create change.

"Listening to stories is also a powerful way to build empathy, due to the mirror neurons in people's brains. This is, in part, why the project is called Mirror Memoirs."

So far, Mirror Memoirs has created an audio archive of BIPOC LGBTQI+ child sexual abuse survivors sharing their stories of survival and resilience that includes stories from 60 survivors across 50 states. This year, they plan to record another 15 stories, specifically of transgender and nonbinary people who survived child sexual abuse in a sport-related setting, with their partner organization, Athlete Ally.

"This endeavor is in response to the more than 100 bills that have been proposed across at least 36 states in 2021 seeking to limit the rights of transgender and non-binary children to play sports and to receive gender-affirming medical care with the support of their parents and doctors," Amita says.

In 2017, Mirror Memoirs held its first gathering, which was attended by 31 people. Today, the organization is a fiscally sponsored, national nonprofit with two staff members, a board of 10 people, a leadership council of seven people, and 500 members nationally.

When the pandemic hit in 2020, they created a mutual aid fund for the LGBTQIA+ community of color and were able to raise a quarter-million dollars. They received 2,509 applications for assistance, and in the end, they decided to split the money evenly between each applicant.

While they're still using storytelling as the building block of their work, they're also engaging in policy and advocacy work, leadership development, and hosting monthly member meetings online.

For their work, Amita is one of Tory's Burch's Empowered Women. Their donation will go to Mirror Memoirs to help fund production costs for their new theater project, "Transmutation: A Ceremony," featuring four Black transgender, intersex, and non-binary women and femmes who live in California.

"I'm grateful to every single child sexual survivor who has ever disclosed their truth to me," Amita says. "I know another world is possible, and I know survivors will build it, together with all the people who love us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

via Gage Skidmore/Flickr and Terry Morgan/Flickr

Senator Ted Cruz and a kangaroo.

Conservative media in the United States has painted Australia as a state on the brink of authoritarianism due to strict COVID-19 protections in some parts of the country. These news outlets appear to be using the country as an example of what can happen in America if liberal politicians go unchecked.

Fox News' Tucker Carlson ran a story on Australia earlier this month claiming the country "looks a lot like China did at the beginning of the pandemic." He ended it by saying that "what's happening in Australia might be instructive to us in the United States" and that things can "change very quickly" and become "dystopian and autocratic."

Carlson provides zero reasons why Americans should be fearful of becoming an autocratic country due to COVID-19, beyond the idea that "things can change very quickly" so his appeals sound a lot more like fear-mongering than genuine concern.

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When a pet is admitted to a shelter it can be a traumatizing experience. Many are afraid of their new surroundings and are far from comfortable showing off their unique personalities. The problem is that's when many of them have their photos taken to appear in online searches.

Chewy, the pet retailer who has dedicated themselves to supporting shelters and rescues throughout the country, recognized the important work of a couple in Tampa, FL who have been taking professional photos of shelter pets to help get them adopted.

"If it's a photo of a scared animal, most people, subconsciously or even consciously, are going to skip over it," pet photographer Adam Goldberg says. "They can't visualize that dog in their home."

Adam realized the importance of quality shelter photos while working as a social media specialist for the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"The photos were taken top-down so you couldn't see the size of the pet, and the flash would create these red eyes," he recalls. "Sometimes [volunteers] would shoot the photos through the chain-link fences."

That's why Adam and his wife, Mary, have spent much of their free time over the past five years photographing over 1,200 shelter animals to show off their unique personalities to potential adoptive families. The Goldbergs' wonderful work was recently profiled by Chewy in the video above entitled, "A Day in the Life of a Shelter Pet Photographer."