Long Beach residents praise ‘Black Panther’

MLK Center takes part in online challenge to fund free screenings for kids at L.B. movie theater


Long Beach resident Marcus Tinker was not a huge comic book fan growing up, but there was something about the film introduction of the Black Panther character in the 2016 movie, “Captain America: Civil War,” that left an indelible impression.

“It made people want to see more of his story,” said Tinker, 36, a deacon at Christian Light Missionary Baptist Church, who attended the movie’s opening at Roosevelt Field last week. “Once I saw ‘Captain America: Civil War’ in the movies, I was like, I want to see his movie.”

That movie, Marvel’s “Black Panther,” is shattering box office records since its release on Feb. 16. To date, the film has grossed over $426 million worldwide, and its four-day opening weekend gross of $242.1 million was the second-highest of all time behind “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.” It also set the record for the biggest debut by an African American director, Ryan Coogler, best known for the critically acclaimed films “Fruitvale Station” and “Creed.”

“Black Panther” follows the character of T’Challa — played by actor Chadwick Boseman — who, after the events of “Captain America: Civil War,” returns home to the isolated, technologically advanced African nation of Wakanda to take his place as king. T’Challa is tested by an old enemy and is drawn into a conflict that puts the entire fate of Wakanda and the world at risk, according to the Internet Movie Database.

Tinker and others praised the film — based on the comic book character and starring Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o and Danai Gurira — for its positive representation of black characters and heroic themes that they said could empower young people.

“I felt that ‘Black Panther’ was amazing from start to finish,” said Tinker, who has seen the film three times. “Very entertaining, action packed, funny, emotional, and deep. I love that they were able to capture a lot of true aspects of African culture from dance, attire and other rituals. I like how they portrayed black women in the movie as queens, warriors, strong and intelligent. This movie will inspire young people. This is definitely my new favorite superhero movie.”

According to the Washington Post, New York-based philanthropist Frederick Joseph launched a Black Panther Challenge as a GoFundMe campaign last month to raise money for kids at a Boys & Girls Club in Harlem to see the film, calling the movie a “rare opportunity for young students (primarily of color) to see a black major cinematic and comic book character come to life.”

The challenge has since turned into a nationwide trend, and Long Beach’s MLK Center participated as well. On Tuesday, the MLK Center treated more than 100 kids to a screening at the Long Beach movie theater after the center raised $1,500 through its GoFundMe initiative that led to a sold-out show. The center also collected donations from supporters for a dinner and face-painting event before the screening, and for snacks and drinks at the theater. A second screening for kids was to be held this week.

“I think what’s different about the film is its representation of black faces in front of — and behind — the camera,” said Lisa Hayes, acting director of the MLK Center. “It’s a major film — it’s Disney — and it’s the first time we’ve seen this many black characters in main and supporting roles. The main character is a hero and he’s a king, he’s royalty. And there’s a whole nation of people who were following righteous beliefs. It’s something that I think will resonate with the kids when they see the movie, and I’m excited and optimistic that they’ll start to emulate some of those behaviors.”