Award-winning journalist and author Jesse J. Holland, who authored the official companion novel to the Academy Award-winning movie blockbuster “Black Panther,” was among those getting nods at the Nominees Luncheon for the NAACP Image Awards Nominees Luncheon held in Los Angeles last Saturday (March 8).
Sponsored by FedEx, the NAACP Image awards will be presented during a non-televised awards gala on March 29. The live awards broadcast will be on TVOne on March 30.
A native of nearby Holly Springs, Miss., Holland has covered D.C. politics and government for years. In the process, he uncovered the untold history of African Americans in D.C. – which led to his first two books: “Black Men Built The Capitol,” and “The Invisibles: African American Slavery in the White House.”
But it was while watching the latest series of Star Wars movies that his career took a different trajectory. While watching “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” Holland noticed the character Finn, played by Afro-British actor John Boyega. And he saw opportunity.
“Finn shows up as a stormtrooper who goes AWOL in that movie,” Holland said while being honored in Southaven late last year. “And the movie takes off from there without really explaining. But I wanted to know his backstory.
“There wasn’t one,” he continued. “So I wrote it.”
“Finn’s Story” was published by Disney, the parent company of both Star Wars and the Marvel Cinematic Universe. So when Disney execs began imagining a book for its upcoming “Black Panther,” Holland got the call.
“It was the culmination of a lifelong dream for me,” Holland told The Washington Post in February. “I’ve always wanted a chance to help mold some of the great Marvel superheroes, and to do that with the Black Panther, one of the first comic book characters I ever read, was incredible.
“For years, people of color have had very few of these modern mythological heroes that look like us,” Holland continued. “Our children will see these heroes and be able to say: ‘He looks like me. I can be him.’ And that is so very important.”
Holland is currently the Race & Ethnicity reporter for The Associated Press, providing coverage and analysis of the nation’s minority and ethnic groups for the world’s largest news organization.
He is an alumni of The University of Mississippi, where he was the second African American to become editor of the student newspaper, The Daily Mississippian.
His journalistic work has netted numerous awards and he is the youngest person on the University of Mississippi’s Top 50 Journalism Graduates. He is also a co-founder of two NABJ chapters, the University of Mississippi Association of Black Journalists and the South Carolina Midlands Association of Black Journalists.
Holland lives in Bowie, Md, with his wife, Carol and their two children.