Chadwick Boseman as T'Challa in 'Black Panther' film still. Courtesy of Marvel Studios

My 8-Year-Old Afro-Latino Son Inspired the Viral #WhatBlackPantherMeansToMe Hashtag

Chadwick Boseman as T'Challa in 'Black Panther' film still. Courtesy of Marvel Studios

Being a mother is one of the greatest joys I have ever experienced. It makes you hyper aware of your surroundings and the impact of the smallest things on the life of a tiny human, as Arizona Robbins would say. And while I have grown to love and embrace all that makes me “nerdy” through all the torment I faced in school, my son is lucky enough to grow up during a time where “nerd” and “geek” are the norm. While the normalization of fandoms has emerged from the deep, dark depths of Tumblr pages, representation remains a rarity.

A few weeks ago, I noticed that my son would get visibly excited when a Black Panther promo would come on our TV, and I casually asked why he was so excited for the movie. And his answer was pure and full of innocence: “He’s amazing, you know? The comic books and Avengers Assemble is so good! And he’s Black, like me, so that’s really cool.” I got up, left the room, and cried.

Black Panther
Chadwick Boseman as T’Challa in ‘Black Panther.’ Photo by Matt Kennedy. Courtesy of Marvel Studios
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I have been part of the team over at Black Girl Nerds for two years now and running the BGN socials are a really great way to spend my day. Editor-in-Chief Jamie Broadnax has given me the opportunity to help build the brand. And as a very loud and proud Afro-Latina, I love adding my voice and perspective to the collective. As we pushed out content for Black History Month and tried to think of ways we could incorporate the release of Black Panther, I had the idea to pose the question I had previously asked my son.

What I was not prepared for was the response and reaction to the hashtag that came throughout the day.

I posted the question to the BGN account, walked into a three-hour work meeting, and while I had my phone on me, I did not know that the hashtag had started to trend not only nationwide, but also worldwide. The responses were so heartfelt, and the emotions became overwhelming.

I picked my son up from school and told him he was a Twitter inspiration yet again (he had previously gone viral with the hashtag #SWRepMatters), and he smiled ear to ear and said, “I’m glad that I’m a perspiration!” Like I said, pure and innocent.

Of course, POC content is always ripe for the picking on social media. While most outlets either credited me or BGN for the creation of the hashtag or reached out to speak with me about it, I knew there would be a few outlets that would not. What I did not expect would be for an outlet to completely change the meaning of the hashtag for its own benefit, instead of reaching out to speak with me about it.

Despite the oversight of outlets not acknowledging content creators, I feel like Black Panther is setting a trend – one that I hope leads me to see America Chavez get her big screen time or my first Latinx representation from Marvel in the form of Maya Lopez, aka Echo, who we have yet to see on Netflix’s Daredevil. Representation matters, right? The saying may be old hat, but the more we acknowledge that representation truly does matter, the more we get films like Black Panther.