Even before the release of Black Panther, the movie has already generated excitement on social media demonstrated by the hashtag #BlackExcellence.
And for good reason.
The film not only stars award-winning black actors playing royalty and warriors, it’s also written and directed by African American talent.
“Even Kendrick Lamar is doing the soundtrack,” says Charles Whitby, the vice president of development with the 100 Black Men of Las Vegas. “Everything about this movie shows our capabilities and it’s important that young people see that.”
Whitby says this movie has the potential of impacting young students of color who yearn to see people who look like them in powerful and important roles. “We recognized [the movie] gives the opportunity for positive representation,” he adds.
That’s why various community groups in Las Vegas are working to take about 600 students to see the film once it comes out in theaters February 16.
“We raised about $1,000 in the first 60 hours of launching the campaign,” Whitby says.
The goal is to raise $12,000, which will pay for tickets, popcorn and soda.
While they plan to take a majority of the students on February 19 (it’s the Presidents Day holiday, meaning students are off from school), Whitby recognizes not everyone can attend that day. They are also planning to have other days where students can watch.
The idea came after New York resident Frederick Joseph posted on social media about his desire to raise money to bring 300 students in Harlem to see the upcoming movie. The call to action raised more than $40,000 and has attracted the attention of celebrities such as Octavia Spencer.
Joseph’s efforts sparked a national movement, #BlackPantherChallenge, which invites people and organizations in other communities to raise money so students of color can see the film once it debuts.
When Ken Evans, the president of the Urban Chamber of Commerce, saw this, he thought: why not do something similar in Las Vegas?
He connected with Whitby and the 100 Black Men of Las Vegas, which focuses on mentorship and educational opportunities for students of color.
“One of our mottos is, ‘What they see is what they’ll be,’” he says.
Both Evans and Whitby say they grew up in a time when the portrayal of African Americans in movies was limited. “We had Boyz N the Hood and New Jack City,” he says.
Evans, who read comics in his youth, says there was a lack of representation in that medium, as well.
“In general, there weren’t a lot of African American superheroes in Marvel or DC,” he adds. “To be at a point that we are now to have this movie, it’s not just good for African Americans. I think this is good for all people to see the positive characterization of African Americans.”
Since starting to map out efforts at the end of January, other Las Vegas organizations with similar missions, such as the Las Vegas chapter of the National Coalition of 100 Black Women, have joined in to collaborate.
Eclipse Theaters has also signed up.
Choosing the luxury theater was done on purpose. Since it is a minority-owned business, hearing from the owner sends another positive message to the students.
“It’s good to get young people interested in entrepreneurship, even from an early age,” Evans says.
Whitby says before the start of the movie, the attendees will hear from the owner of the theater as well as local African Americans in the film industry.
“We want them to leave the showing illuminated,” Whitby says. “We want them to be excited and know if they have a dream, they can shoot for it.”
To contribute to the Las Vegas effort, visit joyful-giver.com/LVBlackPanther.