By Verbal Adam | Special To The OBSERVER

Students enjoy free popcorn and drinks during the free screening of “Black Panther 2: Wakanda Forever.”
Students enjoy free popcorn and drinks during the free screening of “Black Panther 2: Wakanda Forever” organized by SCUSD Trustee Chinua Rhodes and Parks and Recreation Commissioner Joe Flores. Verbal Adam, OBSERVER

“Black Panther 2: Wakanda Forever” premiered Nov. 11 with average ticket prices for the film across the Sacramento region ranging from $12-$21, theater popcorn an additional $6-$12, and soft drinks $6-$9.

Some families are paying more than $30 per child to have a traditional moviegoing experience. However, with funding from organizations like SMUD, Oak Park Black Child Legacy Campaign, the United Way and the Sacramento City Unified School District, events such as the screening organized by SCUSD Trustee Chinua Rhodes are a much-welcome reprieve.

Young people were able to pose with fictional members of the Dora Milaje, the spear-wielding warrior women who serve as the security force of Wakanda.
Young people were able to pose with fictional members of the Dora Milaje, the spear-wielding warrior women who serve as the security force of Wakanda in the “Black Panther” franchise. Verbal Adam, OBSERVER

More than 500 youths and their families have so far attended free screenings of the film. Joe Flores, who serves as the city’s parks and recreation commissioner and identifies as Mexican American, co-hosted a screening at the Delta Shores Regal Cinema for SCUSD students and families.

“This student screening is deeply personal to me,” Flores told The OBSERVER. “Knowing the beauty of Mesoamerican culture will be on full display with a new Marvel superhero, the students who look like me can feel seen and represented on the big screen.”

It’s a sentiment echoed at “Wakanda Forever” screenings worldwide: representation matters. “This is something where kids can connect to their identities outside of school and see positive images of themselves in mass media and movies, and that’s important,” said Michael Benjamin II, a parent and community member who works for Safe Schools SCUSD.

They say it takes a village to raise a child, and when the community comes together, it’s to the benefit of all. “We have to be about community, and this event is a demonstration of our commitment to community,” Dr. Markisha Webster, director of diversity, equity, and inclusion at SMUD, told The OBSERVER.

Local organizations also hosted students and their families to a screening of the film at the IMAX theater in downtown Sacramento.
Local organizations also hosted students and their families to a screening of the film at the IMAX theater in downtown Sacramento. Verbal Adam, OBSERVER

“Wakanda Forever” is an Afrofuturist film and the second in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) co-written and directed by Sac State graduate Ryan Coogler. The MCU is a Disney-owned film franchise worth an estimated $26.6 billion. Coogler became the first Black Marvel Studios director, co-writing and directing the record-breaking 2018 hit “Black Panther” starring the late Chadwick Boseman. The character was created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in July 1966 and is the first Black superhero in American mainstream comics.

The first superhero film was the silent movie “The Mark of Zorro,” which debuted in 1920. However, it would be nearly eight decades later, in 1997, until the world saw the first screen appearance of a Black superhero in Robert Townsend’s “The Meteor Man.”

“Wakanda Forever” is set in the fictional nation of Wakanda and introduces Talokan, an ancient underwater Mesoamerican civilization inspired by ancient Mayan culture, led by the Mayan god K’uk’ulkan. Bitter at the surface world for enslaving the Mayans, he proposes an alliance with Wakanda against the rest of the world. The creatives consulted history and subject matter experts for the creation of the elaborate sets and costumes.