For every Black person that entered the theater, my excitement and anticipation jumped atleast twenty degrees.
Some were dressed as if they were attending the coronation of Queen Amina; others looked as if they'd come straight from their 9-5 in the Financial District, and then there were those who rolled up dressed in pajama pants, bonnets and Timbs.
(God, I love My People.)
However, my focus remained on the children.
From what I could gather, the youngest child in the theater, a little girl, couldn't have been more than five or six; and so I tried imagining just how excited I would have been at that age to be in attendance at one of the most momentous occasions in Black History: the viewing of Marvel's Black Panther.
Growing up, I was raised in a very Pro-Black family. My mother, father, grandparents, and just about everyone in my family played prominent roles in both the Civil Right's movement, and over the course of furthering Black people as whole.
At age eleven, I was enrolled into a Pan-African school called The Betty Shabazz International Charter School, which boasts a unique curriculum so dedicated to teaching Black children where they came from, and with none of the whitewashing I'd later be exposed to in high school.
What's interesting to note is that I'd been as much of a nerd then as I am now; video games, anime, manga, and comics were and always will part of who I am. And as such, I always wondered why it seemed that you couldn't be Pro-Black and a nerd at the same time.
Comics especially were considered a "white people thing"; so as kid, when I responded to the question of "Who is your favorite Black hero?" with "Storm from X-men", I caught a lot of flack for it until sometime later when another quiet classmate of mine admitted T'Challa was his hero.
The same classmate and I would spend literally hours talking endlessly about Black Panther and Storm; and yet neither of us could understand why our idolization of the two meant constant consternation and rejection from our fellow Black peers.
I used to wonder all the time how those who claimed to care about the state of Black affairs and culture could be so obtuse to the overwhelming cultural significance of two prominent Black heroes such as these.
And as I sat in the theater on Friday, I didn't feel any sort of bitterness, anger, or even annoyance as I imagined the same people who made my life a living hell for being a nerd, sitting excitedly in a theater elsewhere waiting for Black Panther to start--
I felt joy.
Joy for the Black children who rushed in talking about how they were so excited to finally see themselves in a world that constantly overlooks them; and for their Black adults and parents who'd once been bullied for having the audacity to admire and idolize a comic book character, I felt a sense of freedom in that they could finally see and be themselves while openly relishing in the greatness of Black Panther they'd known long before everyone else.
I could be here all week talking about the cultural significance of Black Panther; how this moment in Black History has truly set the bar for past generations to see how far we've come, and how Black Panther teaches future generations to be unafraid and unlimited in just how great they can be.
In the eyes of the elderly, I saw their wildest dreams played out before them on the silver screen; and in the eyes of the young, I saw hope.
That night in the theater, I witnessed Black Joy in the form of smiles, tears, and multiple standing ovations before, during, and even after the movie ended.
Those of us leaving the theater hyped up the awaiting crowds outside standing in line to purchase their tickets. A group of Black boys rushed out screaming "WAKANDA FOREVER!" and was met with cheers as perfect strangers chanted back to them "WAKANDA FOREVER!"
There was so much Umoja among Black people, it was overwhelming.
Black Panther isn't just a movie; it's Black history. Our history. Our experiences. Our lives. Our culture. Our voice. This is us.
And as those voices roar out "Wakanda Forever", join them; roar as one with Wakanda and continue to uplift Black Panther as one of the greatest achievements of Black people this world has ever seen.