It's not every day you hear about a whole theater being rented out for a "movie" night for about 100 kids and their families. The movie the Cole Boys & Girls Club made the focus ended up being just as important as the outing.
Steven Roland, the site director at Cole Boys & Girls Club Arts & Sciences Academy, believes Black Panther has a strong connection to his students.
Months ago, Roland and his staff began planning a family movie night.
“There was one movie that stood out to us, and it was Black Panther because it was going to empower our young people and their families,” Roland says.
Black Panther follows the people of Wakanda, a technologically advanced African country that keeps its assets a secret from the rest of the world. The lead character, T’Challa, is challenged with securing his people’s way of life.
“Empowerment through Black Panther means seeing a film with people that look like them - people that are doing the right thing,” he says.
Most of the students at Cole are minorities – mainly African American and Latino.
“The world and society are not showing them the good things that people of color are doing,” he says.
The Cole Boys & Girls Club operates in northeast Denver, primarily serving youth and families from Cole, Five Points and Whittier.
“The film showed rough communities and that’s the kind of communities our kids come from,” says Roland. “We have to show them from movies and from us going into the Boys & Girls Club every day that they can overcome and make it from circumstances that a lot of people might not make it out of.”
Instilling that message in the students at Cole was a success.
9NEWS caught up with them just as the movie credits stopped. Kids of various ages and grade-levels were satisfied with more than just the action in the film. Black Panther is unique compared to previous hero films.
"I give it 100 percent,” says 9-year-old Kearre Watson.
Serenity Higgins,12, says “it’s different because Black Panther comes from a whole different type of world. The culture was really cool because it showed our ancestors and that was really cool.”
Aside from empowering minority youth through cultural representations, the movie’s characters are fan favorites for other reasons.
Serenity’s favorite character is Black Panther’s sister, Shuri, a technological genius with a witty nature.
The seventh grader says her interest in technology makes her like Shuri in many ways.
Serenity was grateful that Steven Roland, who she calls Mr. Steven, planned the outing and made Zach Kerr from the Denver Broncos part of it.
While pondering on his youth, Kerr remembers wearing Black Panther shirts from the comic book and activist group in high school. Upon learning about the movie, he was excited to see it with kids in the community.
“I think it’s important for kids to see someone who looks like them doing something positive – not only for the community but for the world," says Kerr.
Although the movie focuses on a specific group of people, he says it promotes togetherness.
The defensive lineman says he wanted to let students know that someone cares about them from the Broncos.
“At 10, 11, or 12 - if I had a player from the NFL come watch a movie with me I would feel special,” he says.
Roland and his staff are already brainstorming ways to utilize the messages in the movie as teaching lessons. He plans on taking students to see more movies that spark conversation.