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Friends raised more than $6,000 in 36 hours for KC kids to see Black Panther movie

‘Black Panther’ (Official trailer)

T'Challa, after the death of his father, the King of Wakanda, returns home to the isolated, technologically advanced African nation to succeed to the throne and take his rightful place as king.
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T'Challa, after the death of his father, the King of Wakanda, returns home to the isolated, technologically advanced African nation to succeed to the throne and take his rightful place as king.

It started out as a loose idea generated by two friends who wanted to take a bunch of kids to the movies to see the latest Marvel Comics blockbuster film, Black Panther.

They thought if they could raise about $1,500 they might be able to treat a classroom or two of students to a private showing of the superhero movie being hailed as a tale of black power and black pride.

“We were thinking can we really raise that kind of money,” said Damon Smith, who works as the senior communications specialist for the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. “I was skeptical.”

Smith and his friend Carrington Harrison, a Kansas City sports talk radio host, created a GoFundMe account #KCKidstoWakanda. The two got the Derrick Thomas/Neil Smith Third and Long Foundation to sponsor their effort and help them set up “KCKidstoWakanda” as a 501 C3 account.

T'Challa, after the death of his father, the King of Wakanda, returns home to the isolated, technologically advanced African nation to succeed to the throne and take his rightful place as king.

Within 36 hours they had raised more than $6,000. As of Monday, the fund had grown to more than $7,200.

Smith and Harrison pulled in Matthew Oates, a member of the Kansas City Public School Board. Oates suggested the movie treat should reward students from three neighborhood elementary schools who’ve performed well, according to the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s Annual Performance Rating.

Hale Cook, Pitcher and Whittier elementary schools scored 100 percent, 99 percent and 93 percent respectively in the state’ performance measures.

Fourth, fifth and sixth grade students from those three KCPS district schools, along with students from the Derrick Thomas Neil Smith Third and Long Foundation, were invited to the “Black Panther” screening and Gates Bar-B-Q lunch Wednesday, Thursday and Friday at the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, which offered the space at a discounted price.

“It’s important that our students have positive reinforcements when they are academically successful and they do their part to contribute to an overall healthy school system,” Oates said in a statement on the GoFundMe account site. “This is a great opportunity to show them that we’re proud of their efforts in the classroom.”

While the fund attracted some hefty donations, most of the gifts were small — $10, $15 and $20, Smith said. Nearly 250 people contributed. “It was just people saying, ‘Hey I want to pitch in.’”

Comments that came with the donations made on the site were encouraging and uplifting, such as this one from David Darmitzel, who said he gave, “For tomorrow’s superheros!”

And Ron Boster who said “Happy to support such a great idea.”

“It takes a village. Really it does,” Smith said, adding that he and Harrison might not have been able to make their idea real without support from around the Kansas City metro area.

Around the country celebrities, non-profit organizations and superstar athletes have arranged for groups of children to get private screenings of the movie.

NBA player Harrison Barnes on Sunday held a private screening for more than 100 middle school students. Tennis star Serena Williams and her husband, Alexis Ohanian co-founder of Reddit, treated a group of kids from the organization Black Girls Code to a screening of Black Panther.

The Disney-Marvel movie “Black Panther,” has been a hot topic on social media for months and surrounded by national media hype. This President’s Day weekend the film smashed box office expectations having brought in an estimated $201.8 million. It’s expected to have a global launch of more than $400 million.

In the film, directed by Ryan Coogler, Wakanda is the fictitious, uncolonized, African nation where T’Challa, the holder of the Black Panther mantle, returns to the kingdom as its ruler.

The Wakandan nation, cloaked from the rest of the world, is the most technologically advanced nation on the globe. It’s rich and flourishing due to its great resource, vibranium, the strongest of metals.

But Smith said it’s the strong African American and women characters that make the film a must see for Kansas City’s black youth.

“You want kids to be able to see themselves in their superheros,” Smith said.

He said it was important for him and for Harrison that the students have a chance to watch the film as a group.

“I think they are going to love it,” Smith said. “It is a field trip they are not ever going to forget.”

Ryan Coogler narrates a sequence from his film featuring Chadwick Boseman as T'Challa, a.k.a. Black Panther.

Mará Rose Williams: 816-234-4419, @marawilliamskc

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