(Photo credit: Marvel)
All over the country, individuals and organizations have been raising money to help kids see Black Panther in the theaters. From “Little Miss Flint” kid activist and organizer Mari Copeny, to Octavia Spencer, who bought out an entire theater’s worth of tickets to allow kids in Mississippi to see Black Panther for free, the efforts made to send kids to the theater underscore how important a film like Black Panther is.
Many of the various fundraising efforts fall under the umbrella of the Black Panther Challenge, created by Frederick Joseph, founder of We Have Stories, a nonprofit marketing, creative, and fundraising agency that provides free services to clients from underrepresented communities aiming to disrupt a system that fails to promote talent from marginalized groups.
Joseph said he created the initiative to make sure kids see themselves as heroes.
“The world of ‘Black Panther’ offers a rare opportunity for Black children to see characters in a fantasy world who look like them, in a story that is not only black but depicts our lineage out of Africa,” he wrote in his op-ed for The Huffington Post. “…Many of us yearned for the chance to be Batman or Superman, but only if he was Black. ‘Black Panther’ gives our children the chance to dream those dreams. It combats comments like the president’s ‘shithole’ countries, a sentiment shared by too many other people in America. Director Ryan Coogler, who also brought us the powerful ‘Fruitvale Station’ and the triumphant ‘Creed,’ tells a story painted in Blackness. It is black folks telling a black narrative through a black lens.”
So far, The Black Panther Challenge has raised $400,000 to send kids all across the country to their local theaters to watch Marvel’s first black superhero. The Challenge also has an official website where you can track other fundraising efforts, read reviews, and register to vote.
Other organizers have taken it upon themselves to crowdfund for their local communities. Jermaine Dickerson, founder of Hero Nation Ypsilanti, a free comic convention in Ypsilanti, MI celebrating diversity and marginalized voices, recently finished their funding efforts to raise $3000 to fund a special screening of Black Panther for black youth. The final tally of their funding has reached $10,500.
Dickerson wrote via email that he felt he had “a sense of duty” to give the kids in his community the chance to watch Black Panther.
“As someone who avidly believes in the impact that superheroes can have on our lives – both real and fictional – I saw this as the perfect opportunity to introduce Black youth to worlds and concepts they’ve likely never seen before. And I wanted to do so through my organization, Hero Nation,” he wrote. “Hero Nation was founded on the belief that everyone has a hero inside of them that deserves to be celebrated. However, marginalized communities, specifically Black people, are often stripped of our agency through systemic oppression and by being perpetually exposed to toxic visualizations of Blackness in media.”
Black Panther, wrote Dickerson, will give Black youth a chance some much needed escapism while reinforcing their value.
“Taking kids to see this film was a way to help them discover their true power while giving them a chance to escape life’s hardships. Having them see a completely liberated advanced society of Blackness set apart from colonialism and white supremacy has transformative potential,” he wrote. “This power, I believe, can save lives while also inspiring some to explore the idea of cultural agency by celebrating the rich diversity of the African diaspora.”
This sentiment is similar to what Joseph wrote about for The Huffington Post. “[W]e must back efforts to tear down systems of oppression and support initiatives that bring black joy. Black children are so often instilled with the tools to survive, but when do they have the chance to live? When do we let them laugh and smile?” he wrote. “It is important that we work on all our needs, understanding that support of one cause for good doesn’t diminish the greatness of other causes aimed at systemic change.”
For those wondering why Black Panther has seen this groundswell of support, Dickerson wrote the main factor is a deep need for positive representation.
“There’s a deep hunger for this kind of representation for Black people. We’ve waited for something like this our entire lives,” he wrote. “This is the kind of film that will break cultural barriers due to its revolutionary nature and how timely it is. A film like this debuting during Trump’s America, in some ways, represents the resilience of Black people throughout world history in how we often form revolutions even while being forced into literal and metaphorical chains.”
Dickerson himself feels he will be just as changed by Black Panther as his community’s youth.
“[W]hile I don’t want to place unfair expectations on the film, I hope to be transformed by the experience,” he wrote. “I hope that I’m inspired and empowered in ways that I only dreamt of when I was a boy. I hope to escape in an unapologetically Black fantasy, unlike nothing I’ve seen before.”