Hundreds of young people are attending a special screening of Black Panther in South East London today thanks to a rising star of stage and screen.
Jade Anouka has brought the Black Panther Challenge to London, becoming the latest actor adding fundraising and activism to their resumé to ensure youngsters from disadvantaged backgrounds are able to see the hit film.
Inspired by Oscar-winner Viola Davis raising money to send underprivileged young people in Austin, Texas to see Black Panther, the young British star (seen recently in ITV’s Trauma and the all-female Shakespeare stage trilogy directed by Phyllida Lloyd, which will be shown on the BBC this year) started her own crowdfunding page for #BlackPantherPeckham.
And today, Anouka is heading to the Peckhamplex cinema to join hundreds of young people for a screening followed by a Q&A with actors, writers and directors.
I’m especially excited about showing young black people that they can be the hero too
Announcing her Black Panther Challenge, Anouka said: “I would like to send 100 young people who may otherwise not have access to extra-curricular activities to a free screening of Black Panther at PeckhamPlex and give each of them a drink and a snack.
“The film is pushing boundaries and breaking glass ceilings. Black presence on film and TV is underrepresented and often pushing negative stories.
“Many kids grow up loving superheroes, aspiring to be Spiderman, Batman, Iron Man. This film is new in that it is not only positive representation of black characters but Black Superheroes! And strong female characters!
“The film will be an inspiration to so many. I’m especially excited about showing young black people that they can be the hero too. A superhero movie with black actors, set in Africa [with] a great female presence is something I couldn’t imagine dreaming about seeing when I was younger. I want everyone, but especially young black people, to be able to watch it and be inspired!”
The response to the crowdfunding campaign meant Anouka could double the size of the screening – with popcorn and soft drinks for every attendee.
Among the contributors were David Gyasi (currently starring as Achilles in BBC1’s Troy: Fall Of A City), Noma Dumezweni (Olivier Award-winner for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child) and RSC star Paapa Essiedu, who joins Anouka for the Q&A after the screening.
These young people have tangible evidence that they are able to and allowed to have access to this world and succeed in it
The Arts Emergency’s community co-ordinator told The Big Issue: “Black Panther is important because it shows young black people (a group who lack positive mainstream representation in popular culture despite being huge influencers of it) that they are welcome in this industry.
“From the director to the costume designers to the cast, these young people have tangible evidence that they are able to and allowed to have access to this world and succeed in it.
“Being able to watch this film for free in a familiar environment like the local indie cinema Peckhamplex eliminates two factors that may otherwise deter the exact people who *should* be watching this film and seeing themselves represented: cost and discomfort.
“Not being able to watch a film due to lack of disposable income is not uncommon for a lot of young people.
“Feeling as though you’re being judged for enjoying a film or that you have to act a certain way because you’re in a cinema that is rigid and unwelcoming takes away from the positive experience that watching a film should be.”
The Black Panther Challenge was started by New Yorker Frederick Joseph, founder of We Have Stories, which aims to “disrupt a system that has failed to support our storytellers from underrepresented groups”. Their website states: “Representation in art increases social justice; representation in art helps depict the battles still to be fought.”
Writing for the Huffington Post, he said: “Visibility and representation must mean showing the losses and the wins, the bad and the good, and, most importantly, blackness existing in all spaces, real and fantasy.
“This is why Black Panther is so important, and why I began the Black Panther Challenge to crowdfund money for young students to go to the movie, ensuring that our children get to see themselves as heroes, too.”
Around the world, special screenings have been organised, crowdfunded by actors, musicians and activists, to ensure as many young people as possible are able to share the inspiration.
Young people will finally see superheroes that look like them on the big screen
Kendrick Lamar, who made the film’s soundtrack, bought out three cinemas – totaling around 1,000 tickets – for kids from the Nickerson Gardens, Jordan Downs and Imperial Courts housing projects in New York.
Octavia Spencer and Snoop Dogg are among the other big names to have ensured the widest possible access to Black Panther. Michelle Obama Tweeted to congratulate the filmmakers and explain why she feels the film’s success is so important.
“Congrats to the entire Black Panther team! Because of you, young people will finally see superheroes that look like them on the big screen,” she wrote. “I loved this movie and I know it will inspire people of all backgrounds to dig deep and find the courage to be heroes of their own stories.”
More than half a century has passed since Stan Lee and Jack Kirby created Marvel’s first black superhero in 1966. Now the first Black Panther film has opened to the fifth highest box office weekend ever and been lauded as the most radical superhero film of all time.
Black Panther’s success means sequels and spin-offs will follow – there are already calls for Laetitia Wright as Princess Shuri to get her own film. So young people from South East London and way beyond will be inspired for years to come. Wakanda forever…
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