In Okoye to the People, readers are transported back to Wakanda before the events of the movie Black Panther. Read on for a full review of Okoye to the People by Ibi Zoboi.
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Okoye is a young woman, focusing on her commitment to the Dora Milaje kings guard and training alongside best friend Ayo. Okoye travels to New York City for her first international mission protecting King T’Chaka. There, she meets a real estate mogul Stella Evans, who has an uncomfortable interest in King T’Chaka and the young people of Brownsville, a neighborhood who is in the midst of a crisis.
Brownsville teenagers are selling PyroBliss, a drug that encourages its users to start fires and soon Brownsville is up in flames every day. Against the wishes of the Wakandan delegation, Okoye investigates and finds that the very real estate mogul who is courting King T’Chaka is responsible for the gentrification and pretense of drugs in Brownsville. Okoye simply cannot walk away from a neighborhood in need and so she works to help the young people in Brownsville break free of their dependence on PyroBliss and come together to take back their neighborhood.
At its core, Okoye to the People is a discussion of the effects of gentrification and drug dependence in Black communities. Brownsville is just one example of the current state of POC communities in New York and beyond. These communities are being pushed out by real estate companies tearing down old building are replacing them with businesses and homes that the original residents cannot afford. Where outsiders see these communities as places to be completely changes, the residents are fighting to protect their way of life.
The parallel theme in this novel is that Brownsville is seen very much as Wakanda is from the outside world, a place that isn’t worth much until it’s “fixed.” I liked the authors use of Okoye’s conflicted feelings to portray the similarities between the two places. Okoye knows that Wakanda is a place of vibrant culture and technology and has to bite her tongue when it comes to correcting people. She also sees quickly that the young people of Brownsville truly love their neighborhood and want to make it better without replacing the families that make it great.
Okoye to the People is an enjoyable novel that puts the focus on one of the most popular Black Panther characters and its themes of gentrification and community displacement is really powerful stuff coming from a young adult novel!
OKOYE TO THE PEOPLE RELEASES IN MARCH 2022!
Rating 4/5 stars
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