Organizers of free screenings for young black people across Canada to see the upcoming "Black Panther" superhero movie say they're elated that fundraising goals have been shattered.
Community groups in several Canadian cities have already raised enough money to give hundreds of young African-Canadians free tickets to Marvel's first film featuring a predominantly black cast.
A crowdfunding page for a Toronto-area screening backed by the Black Business and Professionals Association said the campaign has raised upwards of $15,000, which is more than double its original goal. The additional funds are being earmarked to create programs for black youth who want to work in the film industry.
Grassroots organizer Kwesi Johnson said individual donors and local businesses have contributed $5,500 to fund a seperate Black Panther screening in Toronto's east-end Scarborough for 200 young men and 100 allies.
"Some of the young people that we've talked to spoke about it from the standpoint of the (Black Panther) being a lead character as opposed to sidekick," said Johnson.
"To have an almost completely black cast onscreen in a big, Hollywood-budget movie ... it's unprecedented, so folks want to celebrate that."
He said the event is meant to be a male-targeted counterpart to a screening he helped organize last year of "Hidden Figures," a biographical film about a team of female African-American mathematicians who worked at NASA, which he said was meant to encourage women to pursue careers in the sciences.
"We oftentimes try to fantasize about the role of the character, but I think young people have much more of an understanding about it being about presenting oneself in a positive ... light," Johnson said.
"Yes, this is a character, but are there things that I can take from this character to build my own self?"
Quentrel Provo, founder of the group Stop the Violence, said a similar crowdfunding campaign aiming to raise $3,500 in the Halifax area exceeded its fundraising target in a day.
Provo said he decided to double down on his goal, and as of Monday afternoon, was just a few hundred dollars shy of raising the $7,000 it would take to cover the costs of renting a theatre, buying 400 movie tickets and popcorn.
"Seeing is basically believing," Provo said. "(The movie) is going to empower them, that they can be whatever they want to do in life ... because I've just seen a black superhero."
The screening will be followed by a discussion to help young people identify real-life heroes within the black community, as well as within themselves, he said.
The Edmonton chapter of Black Lives Matter tweeted on Feb. 1 that it had exceeded its roughly $2,700 fundraising goal in one day, and that number continues to climb on the event's crowdfunding page.
GoFundMe campaigns have been set up to host similar screenings in Ottawa, Calgary and Hamilton.