Over the weekend, Black Panther broke the box office to rake in over $300 million worldwide. And the Black Panther Challenge certainly helped with those numbers. The solo film for the titular character has been getting a lot of well-deserved buzz for its predominantly black cast, black director Ryan Coogler, and the love and attention to detail being paid to the continent of Africa and the countries and cultures that live there — but a lot of that buzz is for the representation that black children will get to see when they watch a superhero that looks like them in a mainstream blockbuster film. So, if you haven't heard about what the Black Panther Challenge is, then know now that the purpose of it is exactly that: allowing children to have that moment of validation, even if they can't afford it.
A 29-year-old philanthropist named Frederick Joseph founded the Black Panther Challenge on GoFundMe in January 2018, according to BuzzFeed. The initial GoFundMe merely wanted to raise $40,000 to take Harlem children to see the movie for free. But, according to the current letter on the page, after Joseph took the Black Panther Challenge viral to encourage others to set up similar GoFundMes, the challenge took off. From there, "over 400 GoFundMes have raised over $400,000, helping thousands of kids see the movie this month," the letter finished.
In an interview with BuzzFeed, Joseph explained his reasoning behind the original GoFundMe:
"To me, representation is one of the most important things that there is. When I was growing up, the archetype, the stereotypes in the media of black people were typically negative, or if they weren’t negative, we had to exist in this realm of athletics or in this realm of, like, our historical figures, but when does that lend to other experiences? Why are our experiences not as complex and nuanced as other groups?"
Fueled by the memory of an incident when when he dressed as Batman as a child, only to have a classmate say he couldn't be Batman because he was black, Joseph took action to ensure that the children of Harlem would get to see the future. To get to see a kind of representation on screen that they have always deserved. Of course, though his work is certainly helping children all over the country, Joseph is far from the only person who has been doing their part to make sure that Black Panther rakes in more than enough money to prove how well these positive representations of black culture can do at the box office.
Celebrities like Octavia Spencer and Snoop Dogg have made efforts to ensure that money isn't a barrier to anyone who wanted to see the movie opening weekend. In fact, Snoop Dogg was inspired by Joseph' initiative to donate, according to a video the rapper made about it:
"Yo, shout out to Fredrick [sic] Joseph out there in Harlem with that GoFundMe project to get the kids to go see Panther, the new movie by Ryan Coogler. I’m going to donate some money to the cause for the kids to check it out and also I’m going to reach out to the homeboy Ryan Coogler so that we can get an LA version of that so that kids in LA can go see a superhero movie and learn about a real black superhero."
From initiatives like the Black Panther Challenge, and from the support the movie has received from everyone from Ava DuVernay to Michelle Obama, it's clear that Black Panther is so much more than just a film. It's a cultural landmark that means so much to black children everywhere — even the ones who are no longer children. So, with that in mind, support Black Panther by supporting those who want to see it, but may not have the means. You could change a life.
Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated Frederick Joseph's name. It has been corrected.