LATINO VOICES
01/11/2018 11:50 am ET Updated Jan 16, 2018

New York Man Raises Money For Hundreds Of Harlem Kids To See 'Black Panther'

"To me nothing is more important than inclusion and representation for children," he told HuffPost.

“Black Panther,” the highly anticipated Marvel movie due out in February, has become a bit of a poster child for well-done on-screen representation of people of color. So Yonkers, New York, native and marketing consultant Fredrick Joseph set out to give hundreds of Harlem kids the chance to see themselves reflected in the film.

“To me nothing is more important than inclusion and representation for children,” he said. “This is such a bigger moment in time than a superhero movie.”

When first creating the GoFundMe campaign on Friday, Joseph aimed to help 300 kids see the movie. By Thursday morning he’d far exceeded his initial goal of $10,000, raising more than $35,000. 

Joseph plans to partner with the Boys and Girls Club of Harlem to hold private screenings for children and chaperones the week following the movie’s release. He said any remaining proceeds will go to BGCHarlem. 

For Joseph and many others, “Black Panther” is more than another installment in the superhero genre ― it’s an example of blackness existing comfortably in an increasingly white medium

“I want these children to be able to see that people who look like them can be superheroes, royalty, and more,” Joseph wrote on the page for his campaign.

Marvel officially began teasing the film when the character of Black Panther made his first superhero movie appearance in “Captain America: Civil War” in 2016. Since then, fans and the black community at large have been rooting for the film, which is Marvel’s first full-length superhero movie with a nearly all-black cast. Centered around a prince turned king turned superhero, the movie shows blackness as multifaceted.

It also represents a big departure from the way Marvel has depicted black heroes in the past. The comic giant got flak for portraying Storm, a canonically dark-skinned superhero from a fictional African country, as a light-skinned hero with a much weaker connection to black culture. 

Black Panther, on the other hand, hails from the fictional African utopia Wakanda, a country explicitly never colonized. Because of these origins, he can be seen as representing pan-African blackness, and Wakanda can even be envisioned as Africa in an alternate timeline untouched by the slave trade. In short, it’s a celebration of black people not often seen in mass media. 

Joseph now hopes other people will create similar campaigns for their own communities, and has partnered with GoFundMe to encourage such projects.

“We did so well but it’s not just about children in Harlem,” he told HuffPost. “It’s about children of color, young girls, children from the LGBTQ community and so on.”

CONVERSATIONS