A Hamilton man is fundraising to make sure local kids will get to see the king of Wakanda take centre stage in a landmark film for black pop culture.
Chukky Ibe has started a GoFundMe campaign to buy tickets for underprivileged kids to see Black Panther, the latest film in Marvel Studio's insanely popular cinematic universe, and the first focused on a black superhero.
'To see yourself as a superhero really transforms individual psyches.' - Chukky Ibe
While black superheroes have appeared in Marvel's films before, this entry stars a black actor in Chadwick Boseman, and features a predominantly black cast. The movie comes out next month.
As the first black superhero in mainstream American comics, Black Panther was massively important. In a world still largely dominated by white male characters, the character has endured as one of Marvel's most beloved properties.
It's crucial for black kids to see films like this that reflect their own communities and experiences, Ibe told CBC News.
"Representation is everything. To see yourself as normal, to see yourself as accepted, to see yourself as a superhero really transforms individual psyches," he said.
"To see yourself and see your community glorified and normalized and represented in such a boisterous way really transforms the way we think of ourselves as human beings, especially as young people."
The Black Panther character's real name is King T'Challa. He's the protector of a fictional African nation called Wakanda, and through the years has held powers like enhanced strength, speed and agility, on top of a genius intellect.
He first appeared in Stan Lee and Jack Kirby's Fantastic Four issue 52, way back in July of 1966.
"At that point I felt we really needed a black superhero," Lee told the Huffington Post in 2016.
"And I wanted to get away from a common perception. So what I did, I made I made him almost like [Fantastic Four's] Reed Richards.
"He's a brilliant scientist and he lives in an area that, under the ground, is very modern and scientific and nobody suspects it because on the surface it's just thatched huts with ordinary 'natives.' And he's not letting the world know what's really going on or how brilliant they really are."
Ibe, a recent McMaster graduate, has been volunteering for years in the city — in many cases, helping recent immigrants or refugees who are trying to get a foothold in a new home.
"I work with kids who are amazing, but who are in tight financial situations," he said. "Going to the movies for them can be a huge luxury."
That's why he's partnering with Empowerment Squared for this project, a local charity with the mandate of creating sustainable change through education, social development and learning opportunities. He says he was inspired by a similar campaign in the U.S., which has already raised thousands of dollars to help kids in Harlem see the film.
As of Tuesday afternoon, the local campaign had raised $675 of a $2,000 goal.
Yohana Otitie, the program manager for the Hamilton Centre for Civic Inclusion, said she really understood the importance of black representation in superhero fiction while watching her own nine-year-old son.
He loves superhero movies and cartoons — Spider-Man especially, she says. But he "never sees himself represented."
That all changed when he saw Miles Morales (an alternate universe half black, half Hispanic Spider-Man) appear on Marvel's latest Spider-Man cartoon.
"He jumped, he was just so excited," Otitie said. "In that moment, I saw how important that representation was."
Otitie says that while black characters have appeared in Marvel movies before (most notably Samuel L. Jackson's Nick Fury, Anthony Mackie's Falcon and Don Cheadle's War Machine) it's usually "tokenism," as the films are dominated by white men.
"[Black Panther] seems centred on the black experience, and this is very important," she said. "I think it's a move in the right direction.
"It's very important for us to go out and support it."