With #WakandaTheVote, 'Black Panther' Fans Are Taking Action Before They Leave The Theater

"This weekend we wanted to meet our people in Wakanda."

Marvel's Black Panther is a historic moment for representation on the big screen — a critically acclaimed superhero movie with a predominantly Black cast and a Black director. As moviegoers flock to visit the fictional Wakanda, home of hero T'Challa, a new project is using the film's popularity as an opportunity to make a change off the screen in the United States.

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#WakandaTheVote is an initiative to register voters at Black Panther screenings, launched by Kayla Reed, Jessica Byrd, and Rukia Lumumba of the Electoral Justice Project, a project of the Movement for Black Lives, which was launched in October. Activists can sign up to host their own events around the country. As of Saturday, more than 50 cities were registered to host events.

"The Movement for Black Lives is an ecosystem of Black leaders and organizations fighting every single day for the healthy and happy lives of Black folks," Byrd and Reed said in an interview with Blavity. "We are effective because we meet our communities where they are, whether that's in the streets, at the city council meeting, or in the movie theater."

Those who choose to host their own registration drives are encouraged to research their state's laws on registering voters, arrive an hour before the movie starts, and stay afterward to speak to people as they leave the theater. People can register by texting WAKANDA to 91990.

"This weekend we wanted to meet our people in Wakanda," Byrd and Reed continued. "We know that for some it's a superhero world, but we know that the world we deserve is still waiting to be built — and we want to build it! This upcoming spring and November 2018 midterm elections are an important step in building that new world, and we want to take every opportunity to engage our communities in the conversation of electoral justice. We will be registering people to vote at movie theaters across the country so that we can #wakandathevote at the ballot box."

According to Pew Research, Black voter turnout fell for the first time in 20 years in the 2016 presidential election, after reaching a record-high in 2012. Initiatives such as the Electoral Justice Project are working to change those numbers and empower Black voters in upcoming elections.

With an estimated $218 million in domestic box office earnings for the four-day weekend, Black Panther has broken the record for February openings, previously belonging to Deadpool. It's also the largest opening for a Black director, and the second-biggest Marvel opening, after The Avengers.

The film has been inspiring action since before its release. Activist Frederick Joseph recently raised tens of thousands of dollars to send kids from the Boys and Girls Club of Harlem to see the movie. Then over the weekend, actress Brie Larson (who stars in the upcoming Captain Marvel) started a Twitter thread allowing people to buy tickets for others who couldn't afford them.

(H/T: The Root)

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