Black Panther and his sister, Shuri, stand In a lab with tech equipment and african murals on the wall.
Still images from Black Panther, in Shuri's Lab in Wakanda

🌱 Heroes & Humanity | Marvel's Mirror to Social Progress

Part IV: How Fandom Inspired Your Activism? Guest Written by Brit Holmes

Sam Chavez
Sam Chavez

Table of Contents

Welcome Back! 👋🏼

We wrap our May series with my 2nd favorite universe, Marvel! "Black Panther" brought a vision of a thriving, uncolonized African country, while “Captain America: Civil War” highlights our fraught international order. Seems relevant these days! I'm so grateful to our last guest writer, Brit Holmes, for waving their geek flag high! They illustrate how the Marvel universe can be a mirror for us to reckon with our own world's systemic injustices. Read on for more...

In Case You Missed It: Radio Waves & Horror Flix | Sparks That Lit the Way

What You Can Expect
🦸🏽‍♀️ Marvel's Social Justice Undertones
🌱 News with a Social Change Lens
🎧 US Divide on Israel Explained
📲 Instagram Tries to Stay Relevant
💡 Reflections, ideas, & curiosities of the week

Marvel Me This | Marvel's Social Justice Themes

Written By Brit Holmes
Founder, Did Juno Agency

When Sam told me her idea for May’s fandom-inspiring activism series, I practically jumped out of my chair in excitement. Before she even asked me what fandom I would be writing about, I am pretty sure I was about a minute into happily telling her about Marvel and how it was so perfect for this.

Marvel is imperfect. In 2008, I saw “Iron Man,” and I officially was a fan of the character despite the open applauding of the American Industrial War Complex. And, like any good fan, I have many critiques, celebrations, and hopes for the franchise. 

We cannot dive into the good before acknowledging how Marvel is flawed. Their decisions over the years have been inequitable and racist. A quick, non-exhaustive list to catch you up: 

In spite of all those flaws, there are things that Marvel does get right—especially lately—and as someone who is always fighting toward liberation, it feels great to see these themes of progress in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU).

Let’s dive in!

For me, and many others, the MCU is more than just superhumans, battles, and the ongoing fight against The Big Three. Instead, it is a reflection of our world’s complex social, political, and cultural topics, along with overarching themes of white supremacy, colonization, corporate greed, power, and capitalism.

“Captain America: Civil War” | Government Oversight and Global Accountability

This movie puts the Avengers at odds with each other after the fight against Ultron in Sakovia—an AI with a penchant for mass extinction (similar to the recent report that found AI to be an extinction-level threat). After saving the world, the United Nations ratified the Sakovia Accords to put government oversight on the actions of the Avengers and shifts blame to them for the casualties and property damage. When rewatching the film, it was so clear how this storyline mirrors the real-world situation we have in Gaza between governmental power and human rights. The U.S. continues to block calls to label the atrocity a genocide, and echoes the film’s tension between state control and moral responsibility. 

“When you can do the things I can, but you don’t… they happen because of you.” – Peter Parker to Tony Stark

Captain America eventually wins Tony Stark over just as perceptions of Palestinian liberation are shifting to more support. Like the movie, we can see the importance of advocating for greater transparency and accountability in international politics, as it underscores that unchecked government power leads to human rights violations.

“Victory at the expense of the innocent is no victory at all.” – King T’Chaka

“Black Panther” | A Vision for a Thriving, Uncolonized African Country

Wakanda City a mix of old and new world tech
Still from the movie "Wakanda Forever"

“Black Panther” showed us Wakanda, an African nation untouched by the scars of colonization, with its unprecedented technology and rich culture. It symbolized what Africa could be without the historical and ongoing impacts of white supremacy, colonization, theft of resources, and enslavement of people. We see the impact of the Democratic Republic of Congo Genocide today starting in the Rowandan Genocide in the 1960s during the fight against colonialist forces and continuously exacerbated by some of the most mineral-rich land deposits in the world (Vibranium, anyone?). Black Panther paints the vision of what is possible when we push against African exploitation of resources and culture and the remnants of colonialism that are everywhere, including the remaining systemic barriers.

The Real Big Three Villains in Marvel: Corporate Greed, Power, and White Supremacy

In Iron Man (2008) Obadiah tells Tony that the arc reactor is his 'ninth symphony.'
Still images from the film "Iron Man"

Starting in the very first movie, “Iron Man,” Obadiah Stane works to sell the weapons for more profit to non-allied forces, and to Ulysses Klaue in “Black Panther,” who wants to sell vibranium for profit while Killmonger turns against Klaue and has goals. He wants to avenge his father and use Wakanda’s secret wealth to help others—and steal back items from a museum. These two white men show the real dangers of unchecked corporate power and extractive and exploitative goals. The best part about Killmonger’s character is that he isn’t a typical “villain.” He also is fighting for the liberation of Black people everywhere and sees Wakanda as a means to do so.

“Falcon and The Winter Soldier” | Addressing the Systemic Racism and Treatment of Black Americans 

Falcon, played by Anthony Mackie, tackles discriminatory lending practices, unauthorized medical testing on Black bodies, the erasure of Black heroes from our history, and police profiling, bias, and harassment. Despite being next in line as Captain America and retiring the shield, a white man is chosen instead.

John Walker (New Captain America): Yeah, violent revolutionaries aren’t usually good for anyone’s cause.
Sam: Usually said by the people with the resources.

The TV show goes on to show that there was a Black super soldier when Bucky and Steve were around, but he was imprisoned and had many tests done against his will, and was never recognized.

We Can Do Better: Making Strides in Diversity and Inclusion

I believe people can learn and change if they want to and have a curiosity mindset.

“Racial prejudice is an emotional commitment to ignorance.” – Nathan Rutstein

Marvel has shown in recent movies and shows that it is committed to that change in its directors and cast. We also have Iman Vellani, our first Muslim, Pakastani-American in “Ms. Marvel” and the show that put a story based on the 1947 Partition (the Colonial Britain’s exit from Southeast Asia). Additionally, we have “She-Hulk” which takes on heteropatriarchy and incels (spoiler alert, men hated it, but I loved it) and Alaqua Cox’s—a deaf, Menominee and Mohican Native American, amputee—show “Echo” features indigenous communities and sign language throughout. Not to mention “The Marvels” which was hilarious and wonderful.

Movies and tv shows in the MCU with a white man or woman/person of color as the titular character

This shift towards inclusivity reemphasizes the importance of representation in all sectors, ensuring that diverse voices are heard and valued. When they are, we are better for it. The newer content is so much better and enjoyable. The stories are richer and more relatable.

In Conclusion: I love Marvel and I’m excited for what’s next.

The MCU offers us much more than entertainment; it provides a lens through which we can map the current issues of today and challenge our politic—serving as powerful inspiration for progressive ideals being more normalized and showcased to the masses. They are telling stories that hit home and are not as commonly seen (hello, grief in “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever”). With these stories, we can see a universe (albeit an alternate one) that works toward a world that values justice, equity, and the potential of every individual—much like the heroes we admire on the big screen.

Brit Holmes is a communication strategist, digital expert, and founder of Did Juno, a communications agency named after their late pup, Juno. They partner with nonprofits to advance their communication efforts while avoiding burnout. With a focus on rest, restoration, and working smarter, not harder, Brit helps organizations build strong connections with their audience through strategic and creative communications.

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Getting to the roots - evaluating the news with a social change lens
  • 🗞 Israel Bombs Rafah Refugee Camps - While people in the U.S. were celebrating Memorial Day, the IDF was bombing refugee camps in Rafa. Israeli dropped seven 2,000-pound bombs that then set fire to a displacement camp that was designated a safe area. The at least 45 human lives that were lost are just as important as the more than 35,000 people in Gaza, the October 7 hostages, and the other lives that have been violently taken to maintain Israel's occupation.
    • 🤓 The Root 🌱 - There's not much left to say. Either we see the genocide that is happening in front of our faces and screens or we hide. It may feel hopeless, but our pressure is working and forcing leaders to face the music who used to be able to obscure their crimes. We don't know where this will lead, but I will keep doing my part to move our future towards liberation.
  • 🎧 US Divide on Israel Explained - The podcast What a Day did a great job covering the history of US opinion on Israel and where and how Israel has become so contentious. This divide is relatively new despite it’s intensity and it relates to a lot of racist views about the Middle East. (listen on Spotify)
    • 🤓 The Root 🌱 - One thing I’m reminded of that’s different this time is that my generation onward (Millennial) are extremely diverse. We are no longer the white majority of our parents or grandparents and our opinions reflect that. Opinions are changing the longer this war lasts.
  • 📚 Mass Coral Bleaching Event - in a sign of rapidly rising ocean temperatures, the world’s coral reefs are currently going through a mass bleaching event brought on by the highest ocean temps ever recorded.
    • 🤓 The Root 🌱 - It’s not great. Coral reefs are considered the "rainforests of the sea” because they are crucial to global biodiversity and host approximately 25% of all marine species. It’s time to take down big oil.
  • 📚 Don’t fall for those pathologizing justice sensitivity - The idea that feeling emotional about injustice is a disorder is the newest way bad actors use the medical system to paint people reacting normally to their surroundings as somehow unhealthy. I appreciated AJ Singh’s take on this.
    • 🤓 The Root 🌱 - “We need to challenge these concepts because they come from a limited perspective of unearned advantage and by those who benefit from constructed colonial oppression.”
getting to the roots - navigating tech, media, and communications

Instagram Tries to Stay Relevant

In an attempt to bring back creators from TikTok, the Head of Instagram is taking a front of camera approach. Adam Mosseri will be sitting down with Instagram creators to chat about the platform, their concerns, and their challenges.

  • The first episode has been released with creator Ezee (below).
  • This feels pretty cringy to me especially the first video of an older white man trying to stay relevant with a queer Black woman. Luckily, they clipped the first episode with the focus on Ezee.
  • My question to Adam is are these creators being compensated? It’s all well and good to promote creators how have become popular in their own right, but Instagram profits off of the popularity of these creators.
  • It’s also important to recognize who is elevated when Instagram changes it’s algorithm and who isn’t.

If the video has trouble loading, watch the video here.

let's grow together - reflections, ideas, and curiosities of the week

Find our latest videos on our 🎬 Quick Bites page.


Instagram may flash new shiny algorithm changes, but I’m not falling for it. 🙈📲 They still suppress social justice content. instagram #algorithms #socialjustice #socialchange

♬ original sound - Sam @ Roots of Change - Sam @ Roots of Change

And that's a wrap on this week’s newsletter! We hope you found this helpful in your work. Forward this to a friend and help democratize communications! If you have any topics you want covered or have any questions, please reach out and let me know.

In Solidarity,
Sam Chavez
Roots of Change Founder

🤹‍♀️ Social & Cultural🗼🗞: Newsletter👨‍👩‍👧‍👦 for activists & heart-first humans 🌱👷🏽‍♀️ Organizing & Movements

Sam Chavez

Sam is a writer, strategist, and curious human. She founded the roots of change agency in 2020. Sam is a queer, white, LatinX activist who’s passionate about a livable planet & equitable societies.


Navigating heart-first activism & storytelling. We explore the 🌱 roots of our world to support communicators, organizations, and activists 🥵 to avoid burnout and 📚 tell empathetic stories that cultivate connections that 🌍 empower ✊🏽 social change.

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