A version of this article originally appeared on VICE Brazil.
On March 25, comics enthusiast Gil Santos took more than 200 children from the impoverished East Zone of São Paulo, Brazil to see Black Panther in movie theaters. Santos is the creator of Load Comics , a YouTube channel devoted to Brazilian hip-hop and comic books. He was inspired to take the kids after seeing a clip of The Ellen Show in which Degeneres talked to the founder of the crowdfunded Black Panther Challenge.
To answer the call of the Black Panther Challenge and take kids in his own community to see the film, Santos teamed up with Carlos Alberto Pires and Vitor Gabriel. They are all personalities behind Black Pipe, a YouTube channel devoted to combining hip-hop and geek culture from a black perspective. Together, the three men asked several businesses to contribute to the cause. The original goal was to raise enough cash to take 40 children to see the film, but Santos and his colleagues exceeded that on the first day of the campaign. They ultimately raised enough to take over 200 children to see the movie and rented out an entire screening room exclusively for the kids.
On the day of the screening, the children met at Love CT Inclusion and Rescue, a socio-educational association in the Cidade Tiradentes. From there, they went to the Aricanduva Mall to see the film. With bags of popcorn and sodas in their hands, the kids only quieted down when someone in the theater loudly announced, “Hey, fam! It’s about to start!”
Hushed whispers and declarations of excitement were to be expected as the kids watched the warrior king fight to protect Wakanda. But no one could’ve predicted the pure joy with which the children responded to the end of the movie: They gave the film a rousing standing ovation.
And the glee didn’t dissipate after the house lights went up. Each child was given a free comic book to take home. This parting gift was very important for Santos. “I’ve been reading since I was ten years old, all because someone gave me a comic book,” he explained. “I never had a strong, influential person in my family—it was some random guy who gave [a book] to me. If I can do that for these little punks, that’s great.”
On the way from the mall to the bus that would take them back to Love CT, there wasn’t a single lull in smiles, jumps of excitement, or flips through the pages of the comic book. When asked if they liked the film, the group gave a resounding, loud cry of agreement.
Santos was pretty pleased with the impact Black Panther had on the kids. He commented that one of the little boys even said, “Oh man, how cool! The people who organized this are just like us!”
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