South Middle School launches fundraising campaign for students to attend ‘Black Panther’ screening

Across the country and world, schools and community organizations have joined in the #BlackPantherChallenge, a grass-roots fundraising effort to send kids to screenings of the upcoming “Black Panther” film.

Now, the movement has reached Lawrence. Kim Fuller, a paraeducator at South Middle School, launched a GoFundMe page late last month with the goal of providing tickets, transportation and a bag of popcorn to as many South students as possible. She and others at South, the most racially diverse of Lawrence’s four middle schools, wanted students to experience what has been hailed as a landmark black superhero movie.

South Principal Keith Jones wasn’t aware of the online movement that has sparked similar fundraisers at schools across the country. Still, Jones said, he couldn’t help but notice the buzz around “Black Panther” within his own community, at the barbershop and at church.

“I think there’s been a conversation in black homes about supporting black movies, talking about the importance of this film,” says Jones, who is African-American. “ … It’s interesting to see how it’s spilled over into education and our kids.”

The movie, which was directed by an African-American, boasts a predominantly black cast and is set in the fictional utopian African nation of Wakanda, has been celebrated for its positive, multilayered depictions of black characters and cultures. Jones said the “Black Panther” fundraiser is among several activities lined up for Black History Month at South.

So far, he said, students have visited the Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site in Topeka, along with a trip to the Statehouse. On Friday, the school held a special assembly featuring former NFL player Darrell Stuckey and Kansas City’s predominantly black Washington High School marching band. And later this month, they’ll make a trip to the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City, Mo.

As of Sunday evening, the “Black Panther” GoFundMe campaign had reached $1,185 out of its $2,000 goal. Jones said the funds should allow as many as 450 students to attend a Feb. 28 screening at Lawrence’s Regal Southwind Stadium 12, which he said is renting out its entire theater to South for the occasion.

The screening is free to any student who signs up — around 70 have expressed interest so far, he said — and will be offered as an after-school activity.

Jones said the support from the community has been “great” so far, though he stresses the school will make sure students have the opportunity to see “Black Panther” even if the fundraising goal isn’t met by the Feb. 21 deadline.

“It’s the kind of culture we want to create at South, to celebrate everybody,” Jones said. “And that’s the message we want to send to our kids.”

To donate to the GoFundMe campaign, visit gofundme.com/smsmoviesuperheroblackpanther.

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