Watch "Black Panther: Wakanda Forever" Stars Letitia Wright And Winston Duke Speak To An Exclusive D23 Panel About Diversity

    Wakanda Forever!

    D23 Expo 2022 came and went! I was on the ground live at the event, and it was super dope.

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    A very close friend of mine, Lee Wren, someone I consider a brother, passed away after a battle with cancer earlier this year. He and I are MCU fans on the HIGHEST level, so I brought his ashes with me to the event. Lee and I hung out and really took everything in.

    Twitter: @KarltonJahmal

    Although the MCU panel, led by Marvel head Kevin Feige, was amazing (I'm sooo hype for Thunderbolts, and that Black Panther: Wakanda Forever exclusive footage made me cry), I later attended an even more intimate panel that stuck with me.

    #BlackPantherWakandaForever cast here at #D23Expo2022. Here's #LetitiaWright speaking about the upcoming sequel.

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    The panel was entitled ABC’s On the Red Carpet Storytellers Spotlight, and featured three separate panels of creators and artists from Disney discussing diversity, inclusion, and belonging in the industry.

    Nzinga Blake, Letitia Wright, Winston Duke, and Nate Moore

    The second of these panels featured two of the biggest stars from Black Panther: Wakanda Forever: Letitia Wright (who plays Shuri) and Winston Duke (who plays M'Baku). Nate Moore, who produced both Black Panther films, also joined the panel.

    #LetitiaWright #WinstonDuke and #NateMoore hop on stage to speak about diversity in the #MCU at #D23Expo

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    The entire discussion was hosted by the wonderful and talented Nzinga Blake.

    Nzinga opened up the panel on diversity by asking Wright, Duke, and Moore, "What was the first moment where you knew you wanted to become a storyteller?"

    Nzinga Blake, Letitia Wright, Winston Duke, and Nate Moore

    Duke was the first to answer. "I always say that, you know, life was preparing me to be a storyteller even before I knew. So I'm from the Caribbean from Trinidad and Tobago."

    #WinstonDuke speaks about his Caribbean heritage and storytelling at #D23Expo

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    "You know, I come from a Caribbean culture," he continued. "Letitia can speak to this...and our cultures are big storyteller cultures. And it's sometimes in the mundane, right? Like, when I'm home in Trinidad and Tobago, the most average story becomes this like big three act... And everything is just a big, dramatic, colorful thing. And that was my childhood. And then I came to this country as an immigrant, and, like, everything just had story. So by the time I was like, looking to find myself, it was as a storyteller. I loved watching television; I loved reading; I found comic books at a really young age. The way that I understood American culture was [by] reading comic books, understanding, you know, Spider-Man, and this idea of, like, [with] great power comes great responsibility. And, you know, interrogating American culture through storytelling. So storytelling chose me; I never chose it. It's something that found me, and then it gave me a voice."

    Wright answered next. "I can relate; as a child, I grew up watching American TV as well: Family Matters, Fresh Prince of Bel Air. And so, the way they express themselves and the way they connected to me when I was a child, there was a spot there."

    Here's #LetitiaWright speaking on cultural influences and diversity at #D23Expo #BlackPantherWakandaForever

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    Our (hopefully) future Black Panther continued on to state, "I think the moment for me when when I felt like I could be a storyteller was when this teacher came into my primary school 'cause I moved to the UK and he said, 'We're doing Black History Month,' and I was like, 'Okay, cool.' Like I have some familiar, you know, knowledge of that Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, the OGs. And he was like, 'We're gonna put on a play about Rosa Parks.'"

    "So I'm 12, and he brings a script that he wrote about the story of Rosa Parks, and I remember reading it, and my teacher encouraged me to audition to play Rosa Parks," Wright stated. "I do not know this woman and her struggles and her sacrifices, but the impact she left on my life just made me feel like I could move mountains just by standing up to a bunch of kids you know, making a bus out of some seats on the stage, and be like, 'Nah I ain't moving to the back; I'm moving to the front.' That moment for me, I was like, if I could convey this feeling, if I can produce this feeling that I feel in others through stories that matter, stories that are impactful, then I've made a difference in the world, and that's why we have Wakanda Forever."

    Letitia Wright speaks

    Lastly, Moore gave his answer. "Yeah, mine was actually earlier than both these guys; I'm older. So I remember the first time I went to a movie was in 1982, the youngest of four."

    Moore speaking

    Next, the panelists were asked how "The Wakanda Effect," aka the worldwide popularity and reverence toward this fictional nation and its people, made them feel.

    Moore answered this one first. "I mean, for me, it was a bit of a revelation," he began. "And then when you're making a movie, you're focused on making the movie; you're not sure if the movie is going to work. I don't think I understood the hunger for what this movie could mean for people. Really, until Comicon."

    Here is #BlackPantherWakandaForever producer #NateMoore talking about the worldwide impact of the first film.

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    "That summer, when we dropped the trailer, and you saw the response across all communities and all age groups, and you went, 'Oh there might be something special here if we don't screw it up," he continued. "Maybe people will dig this movie. And you don't realize what's not there until you're given it. And I don't think I realized the amount of representation that wasn't there, especially for kids, until you saw kids for the first time go, 'Oh, I see myself up there.' And you realize, and I think we all know it, but to kind of relearn it was pretty powerful."

    "Because it's honestly not really even about Marvel at that point," he concluded. "It's just about kids. You know, I mean, adults are great. I'm an adult, and I like movies, but like, it's about how fundamentally it was touching kids and showing kids that they could be superheroes because they could finally see themselves."

    Wright gave her response next. "It helped me to appreciate and to honor the African diaspora," she explained.

    #LetitiaWright explains how the first #BlackPanther helped her to honor different types of African cultures across the diaspora at #D23Expo #BlackPantherWakandaForever

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    "When I saw the impact that it had on, you know, African Americans or the Caribbean, or people from the continent, just joining forces together, feeling so proud. And then outside of that too, just everybody from all walks of life, no matter where you're from just loving this world of Wakanda. And the continent just being so celebrated in a way that we haven't seen before. I thought it was really brave of Marvel, and I thought it was really beautiful. So for that, I took my first trip to Africa this year. I went to South Africa. I went to Rwanda. I went to Uganda. We're going to Nigeria and Ghana next. But being home, when I was landing, I cried because I just felt this reconnection that I didn't know I would feel. And it started with this movie."

    Duke gave the final answer to the "Wakanda Effect" question. "The Wakanda Effect was just seeing these ripples all over, in places that you never expected to see them," he divulged.

    Here is #WinstonDuke speaking about inclusion, oppression, and being a Wakandan Ambassador at #D23Expo #WakandaForever

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    "I always joke and say that we entered the process as actors and left as these weird diplomats for this idea of Wakanda. And I didn't realize how many people had this futurist kind of ideal of a better tomorrow than the world that they live in today. And that's Wakanda for so many people, is that tomorrow's better. Tomorrow's inclusive. Tomorrow, I'm going to be fully manifested. Tomorrow, I could be the real me. Tomorrow, I'm accepted. Tomorrow, right? Because looking back in the past isn't always emotionally and psychologically safe. Looking at the past doesn't allow you to really see yourself, you see one version of something that you're told that you should see. And seeing that echoing all over the place, seeing other movies that came after Black Panther that they felt safer to make their movie. Oh man, I heard so many people say, 'We want our Black Panther.' Right?"

    "That was literally the statement right after our movie," he continued. "'It was so special; you guys made something so beautiful. I really want our Black Panther. And I really felt like we got a chance to start saying like...'The time is now for like our movie.' And I said, 'Yeah, because that's the thing about inclusion and freedom because it gives permission.' And the best thing it gives permission for is the permission to dream. That's what I appreciate. That's what oppression stops. Oppression stops the possibility of your dreams. Right? Oppression doesn't allow you to say, 'Hey, man, I can imagine myself in this space.' ... So Black Panther gave people the ability to dream again."

    Winston Duke poses

    Lastly, the panelists were asked about how Black Panther changed or improved their connection with Africa. Since Wright already touched on that answer, only Duke and Moore answered the final question. One theme that really resonated here was ownership.

    Letitia Wright, Winston Duke, Nate Moore

    "I saw the kind of amalgamation of Africa, which is what Wakanda was. We, and I, could speak because the other creative participants aren't onstage, but they borrowed things from all over the continent," Duke answered.

    More of #WinstonDuke on the influences of #BlackPantherWakandaForever

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    "It was a hairstyle. It was a pattern. It was a color. It was a designer. It was some specific tribal design, a geometric shape. My dialect that I used was Igbo. Right? It was another person's dialect. It was using South African Xhosa. It was everything. It was the continent made [into] one, for this fictional space. So it's not one space, not, 'Oh, this place is Central Africa.' No, it's the continent. And, it was a powerful thing."

    "We don't get to dress up and have a Harry Potter moment," Duke explained. "There weren't a lot of Black witches in that movie, but you know, we got a chance to dress up. People had a chance to, you know, have our own respectful majestic cosplay. And it was more than pride. It was ownership. I think that's the thing that we're fighting for. And Black Panther took the biggest, boldest step in it. It was ownership."

    Winston Duke onstage holding up a mic

    "I do think it's ownership," Moore added. "And it's pride. And it's realizing the breadth of amazing art and architecture and science and all these things out of Africa that we don't celebrate, because they're not celebrated."

    the panelists onstage

    Note: Some responses have been edited for length and/or clarity.

    Are you excited for Black Panther: Wakanda Forever? Let me know in the comments section below!

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