Can you guess this $400 Jeopardy clue about Dr. Howard’s book?

A $400 clue in the “Essays” category of the Jeopardy! Masters tournament reads:

A book of essays about the “Black Panther” film and its cultural impact is called “Why” this fictional country “matters?


Glad to see that Andrew got it right!

The answer is “Wakanda” in reference to the 2021 publication of my book, Why Wakanda Matters (BenBella Books). It was a clue in the Double Jeopardy! Round on Monday, May 15th, 2023.

Why Wakanda Matters: What Black Panther Reveals About Psychology, Identity, and Communication is a thought-provoking book that explores the significance of the fictional African nation of Wakanda and its portrayal in the movie “Black Panther.” The book delves into the psychological aspects of the characters, their struggles with identity, and the communication patterns depicted in the film. It examines how the film’s representation of a technologically advanced African society challenges stereotypes, reinforces some stereotypes, and offers empowering narratives for underestimated communities. The book ultimately argues that “Black Panther” serves as a powerful cultural and psychological touchstone, highlighting the importance of diverse representation in media, what the film can teach us about mental health, and its impact on social identities and communication.

I got the idea for the book after seeing something that I could not remember ever seeing before. Celebrities and organizations were buying out movie theatres when the movie dropped. People were seeing it over and over again. People were dressed in their best African attire and headed to the theatres. It was a cultural phenomenon that did not disappoint at the box office. In fact, it shattered the myth that Black superhero movies do not sell in the United States and abroad.

“Black Panther” made an impressive splash at the box office, breaking records and surpassing expectations. Its opening weekend raked in a staggering $202 million in the US and Canada alone, securing its place as the fifth-highest-grossing opening weekend in North American history. Domestically, the film continued its triumph, grossing over $700 million, making it the highest-grossing superhero film ever in North America, surpassing even “The Avengers.” Globally, “Black Panther” earned over $1.3 billion, becoming the ninth-highest-grossing film of all time. Its sustained performance in theaters demonstrated its immense popularity and appeal. The film resonated with audiences due to its powerful storytelling, remarkable performances, and groundbreaking representation of black actors and characters. “Black Panther” sparked discussions about diversity and inclusion in the film industry and inspired audiences worldwide, leaving an indelible cultural impact. I was happy to see so many beautiful Black people of all shades and types in film and to see them getting paid to do what they love – act.

Imagine my surprise when I received a text message from one of the book’s contributors (pictured below for my initial reaction):

I needed proof. So Felicia Stewart, author of the chapter “Cross My Heart and Hope to Die in Wakanda,” sent me a picture. It was true. I was ecstatic.

Naturally, a roller coaster of emotions (all good) surfaced over the minutes and days after this distinction. Many people wanted to know how it felt. As I discussed here on Instagram, my three takeaways from this recognition are:

1) Set the bar high enough.

I used to hate when I’d hear successful people say, “It’s not about the end result, it’s about the journey” in interviews. I’d think, “yeah, easy for you to say when you’ve accomplished everything.” But moments like this show me why this is at least partially true (though it is more nuanced). This saying emphasizes the importance of focusing on the process rather than solely fixating on the final outcome. More than that, when you set big goals and have a big vision for your life, it’s not about “winning” at success. For me, I can never “win” at success because I always will be striving for more. I do not have enough time on this planet to reach my goals or even my life vision because once I reach a landmark, there is so much more I want to accomplish. It’s the pursuit of the end result or goal or vision (all different things) that leads to these unexpected, unplanned beautiful moments. The collection of those moments becomes more meaningful than the end result or thing you were after. It doesn’t mean you don’t want or need the bigger goal or vision. You can’t plan to have your work featured on Jeopardy (at least I didn’t or don’t know of a way to). In that way, the true value lies in the experiences, growth, striving, lessons, and opportunities gained along the way rather than just the ultimate destination or achievement. The path taken is often as significant as the destination reached because of what happens in the pursuit of it all. Make sure you set the bar high.

2) There is something to be said for consistency combined with self-belief.

When I talk about consistency combined with self-belief, I am acknowledging the power of persistence and confidence in achieving my goals. Consistency refers to the dedication and commitment to continuously work towards my objectives, even when faced with obstacles or setbacks. It involves showing up, putting in the effort, and maintaining a steady focus on my aspirations over a long period of time. On the other hand, self-belief encompasses having faith in my abilities, trusting my instincts, and cultivating a positive mindset. It means believing that I have what it takes to overcome challenges and accomplish what I set out to do.

When you combine consistency and self-belief, you create a powerful combination. Consistency provides the discipline and determination to keep moving forward, while self-belief fuels your motivation and resilience. Together, they form a strong foundation for success and personal growth in the midst of a ton of rejection, doors closed, and “no’s.”

The journey toward your goals may not always be linear or easy – especially the bigger goals. There will be setbacks, failures, rejections (Over the last three months, my book submissions have been rejected by at least 30 agents), and moments of doubt. But through consistency and self-belief, you learn to embrace these challenges as opportunities for growth and self-improvement. Developing resilience, learning from your experiences, and adapting are key.

By the way, I’ve done everything I’ve wanted to do so far as a writer WITHOUT EVER HAVING AN AGENT. And I am just getting started. Let that sink in.

3) “Be you, they’ll adjust” (words from my creative coach, Will Toms, co-owner of REC Philly)

This simple sentence speaks so much life into me. “Be you, they’ll adjust” is about embracing how you show up and knowing that others will adapt, and if they don’t, it really doesn’t matter. It’s like Allen Iverson showing up with braids, long shorts, and tattoos to the NBA when no one else was doing that. It’s the hard work of standing in your power when people want you to be something else. It means having the confidence to be true to who you are, even if it goes against the norm. Coloring just outside the lines but still producing a beautiful picture. By being genuine, you attract the right people and opportunities that align with your uniqueness (and happiness). I’m not saying that it isn’t going to be lonely. It will likely be lonely for a while. But when people catch up, you’ll be the genius holding the bag.  

Those are my thoughts on having my book as a clue on Jeopardy and I hope it helps someone out there who is questioning everything, ready to give up, and/or wondering, “why am I even doing this anyway.”

If you want to know more about my journey, it’s here in my TEDx talk.

If you want to know what I’m up to on this writing dream, it’s here.

If you want to know more about what makes me who I am today, it’s here.