Atlanta foundation will take 725 students to see ‘Black Panther’

Jay Bailey recognizes the importance of images and exposure.

He was eight years old  when he saw the first superhero who looked like him.

“I grew up with Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman,” Bailey said. “I never saw my reflection in them. They were superheroes I admired and looked up to.”

On Tuesday, the Phoenix Leadership Foundation, the nonprofit formed by Bailey and his wife, NBC news correspondent Blayne Alexander, will take 725 students to see  the "Black Panther" at Movie Tavern Northlake in Tucker.

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The movie, starring Chadwick Boseman, Lupita Nyong’o, Michael B. Jordan and Danai Gurira, was filmed in Atlanta and has broken box-office records.

It took in $235 million during its debut over the President’s Day weekend, according to estimates.

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Students will get the royal treatment.

Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) and T’Challa/Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) in “Black Panther.” The movie debuted with $361 million in worldwide ticket sales. Contributed by Marvel Studios

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Fourteen luxury buses will pick up the students from several metro  schools. Actors dressed in African attire will be on each bus. They will tell the story of Wakanda (the fictional nation in the film) while weaving in actual African history.

There will be drummers, dancers, singers and all the popcorn they can eat at the movies. Students will walk across a purple carpet.

Bailey, chairman of the foundation and a managing partner at Greenwood Archer, a private equity firm,  said nearly 700 people donated to the effort, contributing anywhere from a dollar to $500. Georgia Power donated books and Chick-fil-A will donate lunch. More than 150 people have volunteered.

“The drumbeat sounded and the village responded,” he said.

Jay Bailey. Facebook photo

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Bailey was introduced to the Black Panther character two years ago on flight to Atlanta from California while watching “Captain America: Civil War.”

“I was transformed,” he said. “He was a king, the son of a king. He lived in Africa in one the wealthiest countries in world. He was Ivy League trained. It was perfect.”

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The foundation raised all the money it needed with just two Facebook posts.

“ I wanted hundreds of kids see the this,” he said. “Images matter.  We should continue to do this.”

The Phoenix Foundation is not the only organization going to see the movie en masse.

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Fraternities, sororities, churches and other nonprofits are taking people to the movies

Recently,  350  people from Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church went to see “Black Panther.” The event was organized by the church’s  young adult and singles ministries.

The Rev. Raphael G. Warnock said the film is important for not only blacks, but everyone to see. Although, Wakanda is fictional it shows a very positive image of an African nation and of strong women and men.

The release of the film “is a moment in black history during black history month,” he said. “It’s really striking to think that, up until now, you’ve never had a mainstream black superhero drama on this scale and that it took this long for it to happen.”

While it’s fantasy, he said. It’s rooted in reality in the sense that it underscores the dearth of positive images of black people who are intelligent, powerful and act with dignity on the big screen.

“This matters.”