"When children see people that look like them achieve the impossible and demonstrate courage and strength, (they realize) that their ability to achieve the same outcome is possible.”
BAY COUNTY — Batman may have Gotham in his pocket, and Superman Metropolis on his shoulders, but Black Panther might capture the hearts of many African Americans as the superhero makes his big-screen debut Friday.
In the movie, King T’Challa — aka Black Panther, Marvel's first black superhero — returns home to his kingdom only to find his throne is being challenged by his rival Erik Killmonger. T’Challa must team up with others to save his nation of Wakanda.
The movie features a predominantly black cast including Angela Basssett, Michael B. Jordan, Forest Whitaker, Chadwick Boseman and more. The film will provide African Americans a view of what could be possible, said Toni Shamplain of Downtown North Community Redevelopment Area.
“While we all know this is a Marvel production, could this be a vision of the future? This movie allows the viewer to say 'What if,'" Shamplain said. "I am not sure how many people remember Dick Tracy, but he had a watch that he talked to. Well, we have that gadget on the market today. I think all of this very interesting.”
Black Panther was introduced in “The Fantastic Four” comic in the 1960s but has not seen significant screen time in the ensuing decades. But now, children will get a chance to see a black superhero as the main character of a film. Shamplain said though the movie’s impact remains to be seen, African American children will benefit just from seeing a hero that looks just like them.
“One would think that when children see people that look like them achieve the impossible and demonstrate courage and strength that their ability to achieve the same outcome is possible,” she said.
Seventh-grader Rodney Jackson said he wants to see the movie, after he heard about it on a radio station.
“It sounds like a good movie,” he said.
One man is trying to ensure Panhandle kids like Jackson get a glimpse of the movie. Jamil Davis, of Pensacola, started a GoFundMe page to raise money so kids from low-income households in Panama City, Pensacola, and Mobile, Ala., can attend a showing of “Black Panther.”
It’s important for young black men and women to see a great representation of themselves, Davis said.
“To be able to see a king of a fictional African nation that was never colonized and watch black women in a role of defending their kingdom and protecting the king will do wonders for anyone,” he said.
As of Wednesday, the Gulf Coast #BlackPantherChallenge page had raised $566 of its $3,000 goal.
T’Challa also has made his way over to comic book stores, with “Black Panther” issues flying off shelves at New Force Comics & Collectibles in Panama City. Owner Rick Whitelock said he has sold more “Black Panther” comics recently, compared to past sales. The store carries the current and past editions of the comic book.
“The movie certainly creates new interests,” he said. “The long-time collectors have been buying, and [creators] released a new series in anticipation of the movie because some people haven’t been reading it since the '70s.”
He said movies, social media posts, and TV shows like “Black Lightning” lead to new demands of the featured comic book.
To help fund a kid's trip to a “Black Panther” screening, visit www.gofundme.com/GCBPC.