Black Panther premier is much bigger than a movie

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - The highly-anticipated Marvel movie "Black Panther" is heading for a record-breaking office weekend, and is set to be one of the biggest films for the franchise.

However, for the African American community, "Black Panther" is more than just a movie. It signals a culture change and a chance to show young people of color they are represented.

"We have never seen anything like this before," said Kristen Thompson, who created a Facebook viewing party group for the film in Charlotte. "As soon as it went public it took on a life of its own. I think now it is up to 11,000 people."

The movie features a nearly all-black cast, which is rare in Hollywood and never before seen in a superhero movie.

"Kids are going to see this and know that it is OK to be me, it is OK to have dark skin, it is OK to have your natural hair," said Thompson.

The film inspired a viral fundraising initiative called the "Black Panther Challenge," which is is a crowdfunding effort to send children to see the film.

"To see their likeness on the screen and to see a hero that looks just like them," said Tracey Suggs.

Suggs is a father of three but is also raising money to send as many young people as he can to the theater to watch the film.

"The more money that we raise, the more kids we can take to the theater and see this movie," said Suggs. "I want them to see the great power that they have within themselves to be the best person they can possibly be."

Events all weekend are planned across Charlotte for the premiere - from private screenings to a three-day event called "The Official Blackest Weekend Ever." The event will feature parties, vendors, live music, screenings, and discussion panels. The creators say it is open to anyone.

"I hope that they will walk away with a sense of pride and sense of culture. Also, a sense of unity," said Thompson. "Whenever you are able to see yourself in a hero that is when you can see the hero within yourself."

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