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Congresswoman Maxine Waters dropped the 'Wakanda Forever' salute at Aretha Franklin's funeral

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Aug 31, 2018, 4:48 PM EDT (Updated)

If you still need proof of the tremendous cultural impact of Black Panther, look no further than the memorial service for the Queen of Soul.

The "homegoing" service for legendary singer Aretha Franklin was Friday at Detroit's Greater Grace Temple, and as expected the event was packed with celebrities and public figures alongside Franklin's family members and friends. Among the guests were Smokey Robinson, Ariana Grande, Faith Hill, President Bill Clinton, Rev. Al Sharpton, and California Congresswoman Maxine Waters, who unexpectedly acknowledged the Marvel Studios blockbuster when she was called upon from the pulpit.

Bishop Charles Ellis II was speaking during Franklin's service when he opted to acknowledge Waters' presence in the room. When the camera turned to her, Waters stood and briefly crossed her arms in the now familiar "Wakanda Forever" salute popularized by both Black Panther itself and the numerous times the film's cast and crew used it during promotional events for the film (and beyond). Here's video of the moment:

The salute immediately became one of the most viral moments in an event that was already blowing up social media. 

"Everybody just point over there and tell her 'We got your back,' " Ellis said. "Come on, say it so everybody can hear you out there, 'We got your back!'"

Ellis was apparently calling out Waters to allow the room to express support for her in response to frequent criticism and attacks directed at Waters by conservatives, in response to her own criticism of the Trump administration.

It's a brief moment, and a somewhat strange one in the middle of a funeral service for one of the 20th century's most important musical voices, but it's further proof that Black Panther has become a cultural touchstone far beyond its importance as a black superhero film. Don't be surprised if you see the salute popping up again and again at events like this, because it carries a meaning now that's much bigger than Wakanda.

(Via Detroit Free Press)