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Delaware students find unique hero in ‘Black Panther’

March 3, 2018

WILMINGTON, Del. (AP) — There was little question as to why nearly 300 moviegoers traveled to Wilmington’s Penn Cinema Riverfront on Monday night to watch Marvel’s “Black Panther” movie.

“We get stereotyped a lot,” said 27-year-old Donyea Mosley of Wilmington. “So playing these roles, these strong black people, means a lot to us because it’s not just drug dealers or being slaves — it’s more of having the power.”

Mosley’s sentiments were similar among the hundreds who attended the theater Monday for a free viewing of the superhero film that was made possible thanks to the nonprofit Project New Start; Bethel AME Church; and Briean Boddy-Calhoun, a Cleveland Browns cornerback and Wilmington native.

“This is just a way to get close to the community, to get the community closer to me and just bridge the gap,” said Boddy-Calhoun, who rented the theater out for Monday’s viewing. Another 120 people will see the blockbuster on Tuesday.

Boddy-Calhoun, a Delcastle Technical High School graduate, said the movie gives a sense of voice to those who don’t always feel they have it.

The film confronts colonialism, racism and nationalism while crafting a vision of black womanhood that’s inspiring and empowering.

“There’s women in power. There’s people (who are) African-Americans in power. The movie is based on a country in Africa,” Boddy-Calhoun said. “With all that positivity, it’s telling people to be one with themselves and love yourself.

“There’s not too many movies that come out where you see these types of people having power.”

The film is set in the fictional African nation of Wakanda. It focuses on prince T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman), who returns home after the death of his father. Surrounded by a team of strong women including his tech wizard sister, Shuri (Letitia Wright); mother, Ramonda (Angela Bassett); ex-girlfriend, Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o); and an all-female legion of special forces, T’Challa steps into the role of king. When an enemy, Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan), appears, the future of the nation — and T’Challa’s role as king — is at risk.

The movie’s message even resonated with young children, such as Kamyra Brown, who got nods of approval from nearby adults listening to the 10-year-old explain why she wanted to see the film.

“I really like it because it’s the first time to see a movie about black heroes,” the Kuumba Academy student said. “So everybody can see that you can do whatever you want if you are black.”

Moved by the messages that the movie is promoting, celebrities across the country have started a movement to bring inner-city youths to see it.

Philadelphia native and Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Jaelen Strong rented a movie theater last week and gave 60 Philadelphia children a private, opening-night screening.

After ESPN “SportsCenter” host and Detroit native Jemele Hill implored her 982,000 Twitter followers to help kids in her hometown see “Black Panther,” 200 children with perfect attendance got the opportunity to see the movie.

NBA Pelican’s Rajon Rondo, a Louisville, Kentucky, native, rented out a theater earlier this month to screen a free showing of “Black Panther.”

Several Delaware scouting troops, community centers and churches also have organized trips to the movie. The Canaan Baptist Church, near New Castle, will celebrate its 15th anniversary next month at a viewing of “Black Panther.”

“We thought that we would host a private screening for the youth and parents of Canaan to not only celebrate black history, but also as a kickoff for our church anniversary,” said Nakishia Bailey, a spokeswoman for the church. “One of our core values is to impact the human condition.

“This movie is more than an action movie. It is a movement in black pride, female pride and power, black families and black ancestry and history. Every person should see it at least three times.”

Boddy-Calhoun and Project New Start expect to do more than show the movie to the children, several of whom saw the film because they participate in programs at different Wilmington community centers including Kingswood, William “Hicks” Anderson and Reeds’ Refuge Center.

“Through a long-term mentoring partnership with various youth organization, we have an interactive presentation prepared for the young people that attend,” said Brian Alleyne, a board member of Project New Start, a job-readiness program for offenders transitioning out of prison.

“The presentation will reinforce various scenes from the movie and introduce new concepts,” Alleyne said. “The purpose is to have young people engage more thoughtfully with the film and how it relates to their culture.”

Alleyne, a friend and mentor to Boddy-Calhoun, said the follow-up sessions will take place in the coming weeks with hopes of pulling examples from the movie that will inspire them to want to do more. He pointed to the 1976 “Rocky” film that inspired many people he knows to push to be better.

“Whatever we can use to pull this out of the young people ... that’s what we’re looking to do,” he said.

Seventeen-year-old Isaiah Pinkney said he was looking forward to seeing “Black Panther” because it places black people in a positive light.

“We have little spots here and there,” the Mount Pleasant High School senior said. “But now we get to see something that’s like monumental and very big that represents us.

“I get to see somebody that looks like me that’s a hero.”

He added that young people of color need to see more positive role models.

Darius Vialva, who sat in the front row of the theater Monday night with his schoolmates from Kuumba Academy, said he’s wasn’t sure he was going to like the movie when it started. But when it was over, he felt inspired to do better.

“It was more of an impact to my life in saying that I can do more than anybody can usually do because of my race and my color,” he said. “It inspired me to work harder and to stay humble.”

Priscilla Turgon, Project New Start’s executive director, said the most important message she wants youth attending the Monday and Tuesday shows is that someone cares about them.

“Just to see that people care enough about them to give them an opportunity to come out and have fun,” she said. “Everybody has value, and when people understand that, I think they rise to be their better self.”

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Information from: The News Journal of Wilmington, Del., http://www.delawareonline.com

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