(From L to R) - Dr. Sonja Brookins Santelises, Ehidiame Akojie, Jamie Reed and Mayor Brandon Scott.

By Reginald Williams,
Special to the AFRO

The youthful energy inside of Baltimore’s famed Senator Theatre was infectious. 

Applause, “ooohs,” “ahhhs” and occasional laughter rang out inside the the building.

More than 300 students and staff from Baltimore City Public Schools and historically Black college institutions filled the historic theater for a private screening of “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.” 

Directed by Ryan Coogler, the “Black Panther” sequel stars Angela Bassett, Letita Wright, Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira and Dominique Thorne. The film finds Wakanda’s leaders trying to protect their nation, in the wake of King T’Challa’s (Chadwick Boseman) death. A new enemy has emerged in the form of Namor, the god of Talokan.

Viewers waited to see how the film would also handle the very real death of Chadwick Boseman, who played the role of Black Panther in 2018.

“The film was powerful. It demonstrated grief and how you deal with grief within the Black community,” explained Kayla Clark, a sociology student attending Morgan. “I also thought it was powerful in that you had two people of color—indigenous—fighting but were able to come to a resolution.”

Sonja Brookins Santelises, Ed.D, CEO of Baltimore City Public Schools, addressed the audience about the importance of “Black Panther:Wakanda Forever.”

“This is a testament to the power of story. This film was written by people who understand the power of language. “Wakanda Forever” is the story of our community. The story of our community is a human story that is worthy of being heard around the world, a story worthy of the world’s attention,” said Santelises

“Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” was released in theaters nationwide on Nov. 11.

United Way of Central Maryland and the Propel Center hosting the screening. They are collaborating to spark big dreams and imaginations in Baltimore youth.”

Angelo Duke, 16, a junior enrolled at Edmondson Westside High School, is a young man with big dreams and an imagination.

“I want to be an accountant. I love numbers. I love complex things,” explained the future accountant. “It’s important for me to be determined, focused, and gritful.”

Baltimore’s mayor, Brandon Scott, seamlessly blended in with the students. Wearing a tee shirt that read, “To My Black People I Love You,” Scott stood in the aisle, snacking on popcorn, talking privately amongst some youth. 

Emmanuel Owolabi was intimidated to be in the mayor’s presence, but Rodney Oglesby felt like Scott was no different than he. Scott loved Oglesby’s sentiment.

“To hear him say that I am no different than him is why I wanted to become mayor,” Scott said. “I want them to see in me that they, too, can serve in an office and affect Baltimore. I serve in an office where the power is in we—us, the people. This is why we are here. And me watching “Black Panther Wakanda” with them makes this more special.”

Students representing the Academy of College and Career Exploration from Patterson High, Baltimore School for the Arts, Ben Franklin, Edmondson Westside, Morgan and Coppin State Univerisities also attended the exclusive screening.

Reginald Williams is the author of “A Marginalized Voice: Devalued, Dismissed, Disenfranchised & Demonized.” Please email bookreggie@reginaldwilliams.org or visit amarginalizedvoice.com for more information.

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