For many Central Floridians, Thursday night was momentous.
"Black Panther" is easily the most highly-anticipated movie of the year so far, and it’s not just because it’s another Marvel project — many are also celebrating its ability to bring community together.
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Tucked away on the second floor of Orlando’s Fashion Square Mall, the usually unassuming Premiere Cinema 14 Thursday night was booming with loud speakers, an emcee, food and music from the likes of Outkast, Beyoncé and Kanye West.
This private screening of "Black Panther" isn’t just any other screening — its host, ‘This Ain’t That’, is aiming to bring people from Central Florida who wouldn’t normally interact with each other together over their collective celebration of the film's release.
“That’s the point of this event — to bring people together,” said Rebecca Desir, one of the co-owners of This Ain’t That, who are self-professed “Culture Curators.”
“We all have this one commonality to watch this movie, and we’re actually having fun with it,” Desir added.
Attendees would be one of the first in Orlando to see the entire film, but before they got situated in their seats, they commenced over food, music and conversation.
The event also had a “black carpet,” a moniker in honor of the event’s namesake. Attendees donned African attire or Black Panther cosplay as Wakandans of sorts. They mixed, they mingled and they proudly striked a pose in front of photographers.
Elease Samms was recruited to photograph the event, but for her, it was more than just another gig.
"(Black Panther) is truly like a feat," said Samms. "I'm happy to be a part of this experience even in the smallest of ways."
Samms called herself a "creator at heart," and said she wanted to capture the spirit of excitement for the release of a movie like "Black Panther."
"It's just so iconic in so many ways," she said, emphasizing its release during Black History Month. "The cast is predominantly black, and being a black woman myself, I'm just excited on that basis."
For longtime Orlando residents, the celebration was also a breath of fresh air.
"I've been in Orlando for quite some time, and it’s really rare for Black people to come together," said Keegan Silvera, an attendee. "There isn't a lot of black representation, so it's just good to see ... just to even see us."
Orlando local Dana Bell also appreciated the film amid the backdrop of sociopolitical current events in the world.
"Growing up, I always heard if we don’t know our history we’ll actually repeat it,' Bell said. "And I think with everything that’s going on in the world, as far as discrimination and injustice to African-Americans, this movie actually coming out is amazing."
"Black Panther" is in theaters everywhere starting Feb. 16.