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Roc middle school students see Black Panther for free

More than 140 students signed up to see the Black Panther Friday morning
Tianna Manon/WXXI News
More than 140 students signed up to see the Black Panther Friday morning

Everyone loves movie day at school. But students at James P.B. School 12 went one step further. More than 140 7th and 8th graders headed toThe Little Theatre in downtown Rochester Friday morning for a free screening of the Black Panther.

“Most of the students saw the movie before I did,” said Faith Hart, Vice Principal at the school. “They would come to school every day and they’re like ‘Miss, did you see the movie? Did you see the movie?’ And I’m like, ‘no.’ And they’re like ‘Wakanda Forever.’ So they’re all about the movie and when they found out that we were coming they were so excited.”

The movie first came out in mid-February and follows African King T’Challa as he struggles to lead his kingdom in the modern world. The film quickly became one of the best selling in history. It topped the box office for weeks and the cast won awards for their portrayals of superheroes, warriors and technological geniuses.

Hart says black people are rarely portrayed this way and it was empowering to the students to see such strong roles, “Just the females, the positive roles and the roles of authority and just having a black man be the King. That was awesome for them. They’re very excited.”

The Rochester Association of Black Journalists collaborated with The Little to bring the film to Rochester. It’s part of their monthly Black Cinema Series so in addition to the morning screening for the students, there will be an evening showing. That starts at 7 p.m. Friday and will feature a panel discussion afterward. And it’s not all fun and games for the students either. Hart says they’ll do written work around some of the themes in the movie.

That reflection is part of the reason the Little wanted to show the Black Panther, Bri Merkel, artistic director for the Little, said.

“We thought it would be great to play it because it’s an amazing movie,”
 she said. “I feel like tonight a lot of the people who come will have seen it already but what is missing in the live theater part of it  is having a discussion after.”

For more information, visit The Little’s website. The Little Theatre is operated by WXXI.