Intro: Your’re listening to Fiat Vox, a podcast that brings you news from UC Berkeley by the Office of Communications and Public Affairs. I’m your host, Anne Brice.
Brice: As a kid, Alfred Day would spend hours holed up indoors reading comics.
Day: I was kind of a reader. I was a nerdy little kid.
Brice: Like most kids who read comics, he loved Batman and Superman. And still does.
Day: The idea that that you know those granted with great power should use that power on behalf of others is a really powerful idea that that I wish was a more broadly accepted idea.
Brice: But the superhero who really spoke to him — who taught him that he could be smart and powerful — was Black Panther.
Day: To see a character like Black Panther, who looked like me… he was the king of his whole country and in charge of any room he walked into — that’s an incredibly powerful idea. And honestly, I think it’s a life-changing idea. At least it was for me.
Brice: Day is the director of student affairs case management at UC Berkeley. And he’s a co-founder of Berkeley HEROES, a staff club that gets together once a month to talk about comics and graphic novels on their reading list. In February for Black History Month, they’re reading the first volume of Ta-Nehisi Coates’ current Black Panther series. The first issue sold more than 330,000 copies the first week it went on sale in April 2016.
[Music: “And So Then” by Lee Rosevere]
Brice: Day grew up in Compton, California, with his parents and six siblings. His family didn’t have much money. He says the story of Black Panther helped him realize that there was more out there for him.
Day: There were a lot of messages, some intentional, some not, that being smart did not go along with being black — and characters like Black Panther were definitely a counter to that idea.
Brice: The first Black Panther comic series was written by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in 1966.
Day: Black Panther is kind of this Afro-futurist idea of this character that comes from a country, an African country, that has never been conquered, that colonialism has not been able to touch. Comics as a visual medium can hit can an emotional center. Nothing has quite reached the levels of the images that you see on those comics pages in terms of representing power and authority, something that I can really see myself in.
Brice: Tomorrow, on Feb. 15, Black Panther is making his big screen debut. Day thinks this movie will have a big impact on the African American community, even those who aren’t comics fans.
Day: The black community has not really had, in a mainstream, popular movie, seen themselves as the superhero. I think a lot of folks in the black community don’t feel very inspired right now. And I think this is the perfect time to have a character come out and inspire hope.
Brice: Berkeley HEROES has organized a group of people to go see the movie on opening night at Rialto Cinemas in El Cerrito. And on Feb. 23, the club is hosting a discussion of the comic with the Black Staff and Faculty Organization on campus. All are welcome to attend either event.
For Berkeley News, I’m Anne Brice.