Anticipation for Marvel's Black Panther has reached a fever pitch, and thanks to the generosity of one man, a whole lot of kids will get the opportunity to see the superhero on the big screen for free.
Frederick Joseph, 29, is a marketing professional and philanthropist based in New York City. He is also responsible for starting the Black Panther Challenge, which began as a GoFundMe initiative in January to take children in Harlem to see the film. But it has since grown into so much more.
Joseph's initiative now spans more than 300 GoFundMe projects, which have raised a combined total of more than $300,000.
"To me, representation is one of the most important things that there is," Joseph told BuzzFeed News during a discussion about what prompted him to begin the the work he's doing for children.
"When I was growing up, the archetype, the stereotypes in the media of black people were typically negative, or if they weren’t negative, we had to exist in this realm of athletics or in this realm of, like, our historical figures, but when does that lend to other experiences?
"Why are our experiences not as complex and nuanced as other groups?"
A self-described "big comic nerd," Joseph told BuzzFeed News that an incident that happened when he was around 8 years old is one of the reasons behind the project.
A kid in grade school told Joseph, who was wearing a Batman costume, "But you're black. You can't be black and be a superhero."
The experience, he said, stayed with him and kept him from dressing as a superhero ever again.
"That instance set the tone for the importance of representation and inclusion," Joseph said.
With Black Panther clawing its way into theaters next week, Joseph hopes there will be a sense of pride and understanding that children feel when they see the film. He wants them to know they are able to be the "royalty you see on screen, you are able to be the spies, and the adventurers and things of that nature."
For Joseph, amplifying diverse stories and granting access to those who may not have had the means to see the film is "one way of pushing back against Trump's bigoted and racist narratives about people of color, women, and the LGBTQ communities."
Going forward, Joseph said his work will be "predicated on giving young people the access to create their own stories."
Joseph recently began the nonprofit We Have Stories as a resource to do just that.
The organization will focus on marketing and creative services, as well as funding for artists and storytellers from marginalized groups.
Joseph told BuzzFeed News that he wants to "create an equitable pipeline" so that the world can see the rise of a new generation of directors and writers like Patty Jenkins, Barry Jenkins, Ava DuVernay, and Ryan Coogler.
"We’ve seen in the past where we have no black movies come out or like movies with women and things like that and so there’s a lull," he said. "Let’s keep it going, let's keep the momentum to the point where it's no longer momentum, it's just normalized."
Michael Blackmon is an entertainment writer with BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
Contact Michael Blackmon at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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