PATERSON, NJ- Nearly 100 Paterson students and their families traveled to Wakanada on Monday, courtesy of Paterson City Council candidate, teacher, and local activist Zellie Thomas.

For those unfamiliar with the world of Marvel Comics, Wakanda is the fictional technologically advanced, yet isolated, African nation that gave birth to comic superhero Black Panther, and rise to the blockbuster film that has moviegoers flocking to theaters all across the US.

For Thomas, the special afternoon screening was an opportunity to reward local children for their academic excellence, as well to give them a “safe space to be entertained.” In addition to the popularity of the movie for its success at bringing a well-known comic book character to life, it also, Thomas said, contains several key messages he hoped those in the audience would take home with them.

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As the first comic book movie built around a black character, the film, Thomas suggested, shows children that “no one can deny them the right to be a superhero.” With several powerful characters, including many women, playing key roles and portraying individuals in critical positions, it also shows that there is “much opportunity for diversity in all fields.”

Following the film credits TAPinto Paterson spoke to several attendees, revealing  that while it may be the overall popularity of comic films that brought many out, the much deeper meaning of the film wasn’t lost, on children or the adults that accompanied them.

Eight-year-old Aliyah, enjoyed the film with her Great Aunt and Godfather, calling it “fun” while offering that she particularly enjoyed the “girls fighting,” a reference to the female warriors that appeared throughout, ultimately helping to defend the Wakandan throne for King T’Challa.

For Starr Lighty, Aliyah’s Great Aunt, the film encouraged fans to “give everybody love,” and to “get together and all be family.” 

At the core of the storyline is the debate of whether the Wakandan people should share their technological resources with others around the world in order to help the oppressed. 

Kimmeshia Jones, who watched the film with her nieces Rashia, 5, Tishona, 11, and Teihja, 16, hoped that fans would take this message as one that encourages those who feels like “making it” means leaving communities such as Paterson will choose to “share their knowledge and opportunity” with others.

Everyone, Jones said, can “help build the city.”

For her part, Tishona said confidently that someday she hopes to be President of the United States, and when she is she’ll be “unique and unselfish” as well as “kind and generous to make the world better.”