In Brief

Nnedi Okorafor pens a new Black Panther comic series, and more updates from TED speakers

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We’ve been on break but the TED community definitely hasn’t — here are some highlights from the past few weeks.

Black Panther’s Shuri stars in her own comic. Writer Nnedi Okorafor will team up with visual artist Leonardo Romero to bring Marvel’s newest Black Panther comic series to life. Shuri will follow Wakandan princess and tech genius Shuri as she struggles to lead Wakanda after the mysterious disappearance of her brother, T’Challa, the Black Panther and Wakandan king. Okorafor will infuse her signature Afrofuturist style into the African fantasy franchise, which has also been written by Ta-Nehisi Coates and TED speaker Roxane Gay. In an interview with Bustle, Okorafor said “[Shuri is] a character in the Marvel Universe who really sings to me.” (Watch Okorafor’s TED Talk.)

Saving media through blockchain technology. Alongside Jen Poyant, journalist Manoush Zomorodi has launched Stable Genius Productions, a podcast production company that aims to “help people navigate personal and global change” through the lens of technological advances. In an innovative move, the company has joined forces with Civil, a decentralized marketplace operating with blockchain and cryptocurrency technologies to fund digital journalism. Their first project, ZigZag, is a podcast about “changing the course of capitalism, journalism and women’s lives,” and documents the co-founders’ journey building Stable Genius Productions. In an interview with Recode, Zomorodi comments on her partnership with Civil: “The idea is that there’s this ecosystem of news sites … niche is okay; they don’t need to be massive. We’re not trying to build another New York Times on here. This is small and specific and quality.” (Watch Zomorodi’s TED Talk.)

Pope declares death penalty “inadmissible.” Pope Francis recently instituted a change in the Catholic Church’s position on capital punishment, naming it an “attack” on the “dignity of the person.” Though the Catholic Church has been vocally opposed to the death penalty for several decades, with Pope John Paul II calling the practice “cruel and unnecessary,” this move sets a clear and firm position from the Vatican that the death penalty is inexcusable. Pope Francis also urged bishops to advocate for rehabilitation and social integration for offenders, rather than punishment for the sake of deterring future crimes, and announced a goal to work toward the abolishment of the death penalty globally. (Watch the Pope’s TED Talk.)

Two nominations for the alternative Nobel Prize in literature. More great news for Nnedi Okorafor! Both Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Nnedi Okorafor have been longlisted for the New Academy Prize in Literature. Following the announcement that the Swedish Academy would withhold awarding a 2018 Nobel Prize in Literature due to sexual assault allegations, The New Academy was founded to ensure that an international literary prize was awarded this year. Adichie and Okorafor have been nominated along with other international literary luminaries such as Jamaica Kincaid, Neil Gaiman, Arundhati Roy and Margaret Atwood. (Watch Adichie’s TED Talk.)

A new exhibition on the strength and beauty of the Black Madonna. Artist Theaster Gates has funneled his fascination with how the Virgin Mary and Christ are represented into his new solo exhibition at Kunstmuseum Basel in Switzerland. Inspired by Maerten van Heemskerck’s Virgin and Child, Gates’ new work urges viewers to complicate their understanding of the Virgin Mary, a character who is most often rendered as white in traditional fine art. Speaking to BBC Culture, Gates says his show “weaves back and forth from religious adoration to political manifesto to self-empowerment to historical reflection.” Other aspects of the exhibition include a 2,600-strong photo collection of black women whom Gates calls “Black Madonnas…everyday women who do miraculous things,” drawn from the iconic Ebony magazine archive. (Watch Gates’ TED Talk.)