Selling more advanced tickets than any other Marvel movie in history, “Black Panther” is set to do more than break box office records. Marvel’s first black superhero film has inspired celebrities and activists alike to ensure that children of different backgrounds and ethnicities are able to see heroes who resemble them on the silver screen.
“Black Panther” has been gaining attention since the casting of main character, Chadwick Boseman in 2014, but has recently earned even more attention due to the nationwide #BlackPantherChallenge. This movement encourages community members all over the country to launch GoFundMe campaigns in order for underprivileged children in their respective communities to see the film. The main goal for this challenge is to allow any and every child a chance to see a movie that may change the way they view themselves and others.
Dr. Marvin King, a University of Mississippi African American Studies professor, said children seeing people of different backgrounds and ethnicities becoming superheroes is incredibly important.
“Imagine if you only saw people that looked like you on the news for going to jail or playing sports,” he said. “It would be incredibly depressing.”
Dr. King also said he believes that diversity should be a fact of life, and it is important for the film industry to recognize that.
Frederick Joseph, originator of the #BlackPantherChallenge, began his campaign on Jan. 5 in Harlem, New York. The campaign started locally, but gained global recognition from public figures such as Chelsea Clinton, director J.J. Abrams and ESPN anchor Jemele Hill. Eventually, the GoFundMe page generated so much attention that Ellen DeGeneres donated all of the funds necessary to send children in the Harlem area to watch the film, allowing for the $48,861 that Joseph raised to be donated directly to the Harlem Boys and Girls Club.
“When this started I wanted to provide an opportunity for young people to see themselves in a story but now we have the opportunity to give those young people access to tell their own stories,” Joseph wrote on the GoFundMe site.
After hearing about Joseph’s challenge, Octavia Spencer said on Instagram that she planned to buy out a Mississippi movie theatre for a special viewing.
“I will be in MS when this movie opens. I think I will buy out a theatre in an underserved community there to ensure that all our brown children can see themselves as a superhero. I will let you know where and when Mississippi. Stay tuned.”
As promised, Spencer took to Instagram again on Wednesday, posting that she had bought out theater viewings at the Cinemark in Pearl, Mississipi. Showtimes will be this Saturday at 11 a.m., 1 p.m., and 2 p.m. Spencer will also be paying to provide drinks and popcorn to all of the moviegoers.
In addition to Spencer’s generous donation, director Tate Taylor and producer John Norris teamed up to provide a separate screening in Natchez, Mississippi on Saturday at 12:30 p.m.
The charitableness didn’t stop there, however. #BlackPantherChallenge GoFundMe pages have popped up all over the nation, including three in Mississippi. Khalid Abdullah Hudson of Jackson, KiSondrea Bradford of Hattiesburg, and Meilun Zhou of Starkville created their own campaigns to send children of the Boys and Girls Clubs in their communities to experience “Black Panther.”
In Jackson, Hudson has raised over $3,000 for children to attend a private screening of the film on Feb. 16. The movie will be shown after a dinner at the State Room in Jackson that has been organized by Hudson and his family.
“Our goal is to ensure that the children of the Jackson community who otherwise wouldn’t be able to participate, are able to experience this epic and historic event,” Hudson wrote on his Facebook page.
In Hattiesburg, KiSondrea Bradford and her boyfriend have raised $1,843 for movie tickets and refreshments. This will send over 70 children of the Hattiesburg Boys and Girls Club to the theatre. Bradford exceeded her goal of $1,750 and will be donating the remaining funds to the Hattiesburg Boys and Girls Club.
“Hattiesburg was awesome throughout this entire process,” Bradford said. “We’ve had so many people who we’ve never met share our post, give to our cause, offer their services and much more. We can’t say thank you enough to everyone in the city of Hattiesburg.”
In addition to the generous donations of Hattiesburg residents, Karlous Miller from MTV’s “Wild ‘n Out,” as well as Toronto Blue Jays’ player Anthony Alford contributed to the cause.
Children in Hattiesburg will be watching the film on Saturday, Feb. 17. Scott Pfaff, director of the Hattiesburg Boys and Girls Club is looking forward to the showing. Because the movie is intended for a more mature audience, Pfaff can’t allow Boys and Girls Club transportation to buss the children to the movie, but he will be communicating to the parents how they can receive the free tickets for their children.
“We haven’t done an event like this before,” he said. “We are grateful that someone would think of us in that way and help raise these funds for our kids.”
In Starkville, Zhou has raised $345 since Jan. 11. He aims to raise at least $1,000 to cover ticket costs, but hopes to earn more so the extra money can be donated to the Boys and Girls Club.
Since the start of this national challenge, over $300,000 have been raised in order for children to experience inclusivity and diversity on the big screen. Of that total, Mississippi has raised over $5,000.