Black Panther Challenge organizer hopes free screenings will empower youth

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This week, Canadian movie theatres will begin to screen Marvel’s new superhero film ‘Black Panther,’ and an international initiative is aiming to send black youth and their families to see the film free of charge. Community groups across Canada and the U.S. are setting up fundraising campaigns to cover costs of sending hundreds of black youth to see the film, which is Marvel’s first featuring a predominantly black cast.

Robert Small, who is helping organize one of the screenings in Ontario, told CTV News the initiative is an important opportunity for black youth to see positive images of black characters on the big screen.

“Seeing fictional characters such as the Black Panther from Wakanda, which is a technologically based society, gives us inspiration…hopefully what we’ll do is inspire another generation of African Canadians and African people around the world to become great with respect to technology [and]science.”

Apart from helping organize one of the events, Small is also the artist and creator behind the Legacy posters honouring black Canadians. As an artist, Small says had he had the opportunity to see a movie as successful as ‘Black Panther’ when he was a child, his career path may have been a little different.

“I think my parents would have wanted me to become a comic book artist when I was younger instead of telling me to go to law school.”

Small adds having a black superhero in a feature film has been a long time coming.

“When I was growing up and I tried drawing a black superhero called the Falcon, I was trying to draw him, and yet I was drawing his nose straight all the time…because I was used to drawing Spiderman, the Hulk, and Superman.”

He believes that ‘Black Panther’ will help show black superheroes in a positive light and change the way they are seen.

“Seeing images like these will help in that facilitation of [youth]feeling better about themselves and empowered.”

As for the kids? Small says the youths’ reaction to having the chance to see the movie has been great. However they won’t be missing any school.

“My children lobbied for that, but I had to tell them no,” Small laughed.

GoFundMe pages for the initiative have been set up for several locations across Canada, including some in Ontario, Alberta, and Nova Scotia, as well as in the U.S. ‘Black Panther’ opens in theatres across Canada Feb. 16.

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