The Zero Mile Post marked the meeting of two railway lines and possibly the beginning of the city of Atlanta.
Spider-Man was my first Superhero. My sisters gave me a comic book one Christmas when I was a kid. I liked Peter Parker. He wasn’t super like Clark Kent. He wasn’t wealthy like Bruce Wayne. He was a kid who liked science.
He was a white boy from New York who worked for a newspaper.
I was a Black girl from Stone Mountain, Georgia with comic books under her bed. And still I believed Peter Parker and I were the same.
Over the years, I got more Spider-Man comics. I got Spider-Man anthologies. But I haven’t read every Spider-Man comic book. Don’t quiz me on what issue, what year, what villain. I like comic books, but I’m not an expert. I think it is okay to like something without having a PhD in it.
It took me a while before I discovered any Black superheroes. I learned about the X-Men when I was in high school. That was the first time I saw Storm. If you ask Black women across the world where they were the first time they saw storm, they’ll each have a story, a memory.
After a life time of being invisible, you can’t help remember the first time you’ve felt seen.
Storm was beautiful and powerful, like an angel with brown skin and white hair. I loved her, but I never thought that I was like her. It was my greatest wish to be like Storm. She, unlike Spider-Man, was too amazing to be me.
Everything changed this weekend when I went to see Black Panther. I decorated my face like Princess Shuri. I walked into a movie theater and closed my eyes. When I woke up, I was in Wakanda. I was there on the screen.
I was the child grieving over the death of my father.
I was the mother worried about the fate of her children.
I was the spy willing to hold my love’s hand as he grieved.
I was the sister. Silly and smart and best friend.
I was the warrior who thinks her country is worth fighting for.
I was the villain who dreams of fighting back and rising up.
I am the friend who makes mistakes.
I am the neighbor who might take you in when you have fallen.
I woke up in Wakanda, and it was too much for me. I was everywhere. I was everyone. I wasn’t just seen, but I was heard. The sound of my breathing and dancing and fears. The sound of my fighting. The sound of my tears.
I wish I could say it wasn’t a movie about being Black. But it was. It was a movie about being Black and being super. It was a movie about being just like everyone else. In Korea. In Costa Rica. In Oakland.
There are kids who will look at T’Challa, the Black Panther, and feel like they are just like him. Strong and fighting for justice. There will be little girls and boys who want to be Okoye, the general and warrior. They won’t worry if she is Black or a woman. They will only care that she is a good friend and soldier.
I still love Spider-Man. I do. I will always be a kid who likes a microscope and dreams of a radioactive spider bite. No matter how old I get. I will want to be changed into a superhero.
I still love Storm. She can control wind and lighting. She is the most amazing thing I ever saw on the pages of a comic book.
I now a love Wakanda. Not a person, but a land of people who are super. Can you imagine living in a world where everyone you know is super? I didn’t want to blink as I watched Black Panther. I didn’t want to breathe. I wanted them to bury me in the red sand and white ice. I wanted to see my ancestors and tell them so many things.
There is still time for me to be super. There is still time to be amazing. I feel it in my blood. That’s the power of story and the power of being seen. I can be super. Every day.
Nicki Salcedo knows the loops and the back roads of Atlanta. She is a novelist, blogger and working mom. The Zero Mile column appears on the Atlanta Loop on Wednesdays.