“We should go see Black Panther!”
At first, it was just a passing thought, a throwaway idea. But as soon as it left Member Advocate Gabby Lampen’s mouth, it got us thinking; could we make that happen? What would it look like? Who could we connect with? How could we get all hands on deck and make this idea a reality?
And just like that, Gabby’s idea became an opportunity for community partnership and youth engagement. We connected with Celebration! Cinema, The Revolution Culture Movement and C3 and were able to secure free tickets for our members. The Rapid provided us with bus passes so our youth could ride the bus with us to and from the theater. We approached these community organizations with an idea, and they stepped up in a big way to make it happen for our youth.
All this planning culminated in HQ taking 43 members to go see Black Panther at the end of March. It was an amazing experience to connect with members outside of HQ – a first for us – and provide them with an amazing experience they may not otherwise have had.
Here’s why this is so important:
Black Panther is not just an amazing blockbuster; it was an important cultural media moment. It is a film made for and starring black artists, centering black experience, and delivering a poignant commentary on race and empowerment. This film centered and celebrating marginalized identities and developed a narrative which gave us a compelling, powerful, and unapologetically black hero.
71% of HQ’s members are people of color, and 42% are black. Representation matters. Seeing characters who talk like you, think like you, speak like you is one way the world shows you what is possible. For you. In a film like Black Panther, HQ youth saw themselves represented as strong, empowered heroes. Heroes who could do anything. It is important to us that our members know that their lives matter, that they have the potential for greatness, that they are greatness.
Not all youth have access to the funds or transportation to experience a movie in theaters and they still deserve to have moments of pure fun, leisure and enjoyment. In our Rest, Resources, and Readiness model, part of Rest is ensuring our youth have access to leisure, moments in which they can forget everything else and just have fun. Regardless of whether youth felt the cultural importance of this movie, we know they came out of the theater smiling. They had fun. And that’s enough for us.
The Black Panther event showed that HQ staff, community partners, volunteers, donors, and youth can create meaningful moments as a community, outside of HQ’s doors. Maintaining community is an important part of working together to create meaningful change; we can’t wait to see how we can develop other opportunities to repeat this experience in the future!
– By Carlos Garay Negrón