Educators, Stars and Others Help Kids See 'Black Panther' Film

21 February, 2018

For years, Xavier Thompson of Albuquerque, New Mexico, has followed Marvel Comics superhero movies. But the 16-year-old student has always wanted to see a film with a black superhero and African-American subjects.

Thanks to an Albuquerque educator, Xavier finally got his wish last week when he was invited to a private showing of Black Panther.

"It was amazing. The music, the action...everything," Xavier said. "It made me proud to see our culture depicted like that."

Black Panther tells the story of an imaginary, highly developed African nation called Wakanda. T'Challa, played by Chadwick Boseman, becomes the country's leader after the death of his father. However, a Wakandan exile named Killmonger, played by Michael B. Jordan, disputes T'Challa's rule.

Black Panther
Black Panther

Black Panther is the 18th film Marvel Comics movie. It is based on 50-year-old stories created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby.

The movie set a record with its $235-million opening at theaters across the United States last weekend. However, Black Panther is more than just a popular film. It has become a cultural movement. Educators, philanthropists, famous personalities, and business owners are sharing their resources to make sure children of color get to see the movie.

Elementary school students in Detroit, middle school students in Atlanta, and students living in public housing in Los Angeles have been given free tickets and transportation to the movie.

The number of black lead actors in films and television shows has increased over the years. But there is still a major lack of positive minority images coming from Hollywood. This is why many people are pushing for young blacks to see the movie.

Joycelyn Jackson is director of the Black Student Union for Albuquerque Public Schools. She helped Xavier Thompson see the movie.

"Something very special is happening here," Jackson said.

Former American first lady Michelle Obama tweeted her praise for the movie.

"Congrats to the entire #blackpanther team! Because of you, young people will finally see superheroes that look like them on the big screen," she wrote on Monday. "I loved this movie and I know it will inspire people of all backgrounds to dig deep and find the courage to be heroes of their own stories."

The cultural movement began with a New York businessman, Joseph Frederick. He launched the Black Panther Challenge in support of the Harlem division of Boys and Girls Clubs of America.

Soon after, a former host of ESPN television's SportsCenter program called on leaders of Detroit to help the city's children get seats to see Black Panther.

"I wish I had time to do it myself, but if there is anyone in Detroit trying to take kids in underserved communities to see Black Panther, holla at me," Jemele Hill, a Detroit native, wrote on Twitter.

Two Twitter groups answered Hill's tweet by sending students at Detroit's University Prep Academy High School to see the film. Twitter's black employee group known as the Blackbirds and Twitter Detroit paid for the tickets and transportation.

In Atlanta, a video camera was rolling when students at Ron Clark Academy learned they were going to see Black Panther. The recording shows the 5th-grade students cheering and dancing after hearing the news. The video went viral after it appeared on social media.

Now there is an official Go Fund Me page for the Black Panther Challenge.

Last week, Anthony "Top Dawg" Tiffith also supported the effort. He heads the record label of music artist Kendrick Lamar. Tiffith helped get about 1,000 children from poor neighborhoods in Los Angeles to see the movie. He paid for the tickets and transportation. Lamar did the film's soundtrack.

Oscar-winning actor Octavia Spencer announced plans to organize a screening in Mississippi to, in her words, "ensure all our brown children can see themselves as a superhero."

And last weekend, tennis star Serena Williams surprised girls in the club Black Girls Code with a private screening, which she attended.

"Empire" star Jussie Smollett took to Instagram to announce he bought all of the tickets for two Black Panther screenings in Chicago, so that elementary and high school students could see the film.

Actor Gabrielle Union and her husband, basketball player Dwyane Wade, partnered with the Boys & Girls Clubs in several cities to help kids see the movie.

"Black Panther is more than a movie, it's a movement," Wade said on Instagram.

I'm Ashley Thompson.

And I'm Caty Weaver.

Caty Weaver wrote this story for VOA Learning English. Her story was based on an Associated Press story and other news reports. ­­George Grow was the editor.

Write to us in the Comments Section or on 51VOA.COM.


Words in This Story

amazing - adj. causing great surprise or wonder : causing amazement

proud - adj. very happy and pleased because of something you have done, something you own, someone you know or are related to, etc. :feeling pride

philanthropist - n. a wealthy person who gives money and time to help make life better for other people

resource - n. a supply of something (such as money) that someone has and can use when it is needed

ticket - n. a piece of paper that allows you to see a show, participate in an event, travel on a vehicle, etc.

positive - adj. good or useful

screen - n. a large, flat, white surface on which images or movies are shown

challenge - n. an invitation to take part in an effort or movement

host - n. a person who talks to guests on a television or radio show

holla (holler) - v. to call out loudly; to shout