A couple of weeks ago, I asked around to find out what Clubs did to celebrate the release of Black Panther. The answer is A LOT! I am thrilled to share my conversation with Lauren Avey, Unit Director from the Boys & Girls Club of Washington County about how her Club integrated meaningful programming with the movie experience.
First, tell me a bit about your Club!
I am Unit Director of the Noland and Williamsport Clubs here in Washington, County MD. The members I took are students from Springfield Middle and Williamsport High. The teens from both Clubs get together weekly at the Noland Facility. We call it “United Thursdays.”
How did you end up taking members to see Black Panther?
In February we began a county-wide teen council, and when the representatives held meetings at their “home Clubs,” Williamsport’s teens expressed a huge interest in seeing Black Panther (we’re big Marvel fans). I reached out to a local theater to see if there was a group rate, and they generously donated tickets to us. Williamsport and Noland’s teens all go to the same school, but different Clubs. We invited them to come with us and join in the fun.
How did they respond to the film? What were they surprised by?
Two words: Wakanda Forever! It was all they talked about for weeks! I think everyone was most surprised by the amount of awesome women in the move and we also talked a lot about how the characters were all relatable.
What kind of programming did you do after you saw it? How did your members tie their experience watching the film to these projects?
We did some movie reviews and summaries for Power Hour. Our county had a Black History Trivia Bowl and our team named themselves “The Williamsport Wakandans.” We also held a lot of discussions about why this movie was more than just a superhero film. We talked a lot about the importance of representation. My challenge for them was to create superheroes that represented who they are.
Two of my favorites are pictured here: Elasticurl and Screech. Elasticurl’s artist has famously curly hair and her heroine would use those locks to save the day. Screech’s artist is very vocal. One of her peers jokingly said that she should make a superhero who defeats villains with “that loud mouth” so that’s exactly what she did!
Why do you think this film was so meaningful for your members?
I think it was meaningful because they were able to relate to so many parts of the film. They loved Shuri, the 16 year old sister who handled all things technology in Wakanda. The main characters were young, the soundtrack was filled with songs by their favorite artists, my teens are really into STEM and the technological advancements were incredible, and of course the representation of people who aren’t always depicted as the main protagonist in superhero movies made it so meaningful.
You mentioned that one of your groups of teens shares a HUGE love of comic books. What are three pieces of advice you would give to a staff wanting to learn more about what their teens are into and how to incorporate it into Club programming?
- Take the time to get to know the kids one-on-one.
When I first became a Director many of our teens were new and they didn’t know one another. Once we’d find out that one kid was interested in something, we would say, “Oh! _________ is into doing that, too!” That would connect them to one another and then soon there would be a group discussion with the whole teen group. I have to give props to my staff because they do a great job learning everyone’s hobbies and interests this way.
- Use the internet!
If you find your kids are interested in something you’re not familiar with, look it up! That way you can chime in when they talk about it again, and you’ll seem like that really cool “old person” that stays up-to-date. Don’t be afraid to ask them questions about it, too. They’ll appreciate they you’re taking an interest in something they love.
- Create activities, plan field trips, and go to local events that you can tie into their interests.
Even if there are kids who may not be as “into it” as others, encourage them to participate anyway. Then, learn what their interests are and make the next activity centered around those hobbies. (Example- we had a Super Bowl party and we had just as much excitement for the upcoming Star Wars trailer as we did when the Eagles won the game, so we’re in the works of planning a “May the 4th” party!) Eventually your members will create enough memories with one another and go to activities because they want to be together, no matter what the event is.
Lauren has been in the Movement for seven years. When she isn’t at the Club, she likes to read, go to music festivals and concerts, and spend way too much time at Chick-fil-A!
There are so many great Black Panther resources! An amazing and FREE companion history and culture curriculum found by my colleague Meg Pitman is designed for school-day teachers, but parts could be easily integrated into Club programming. Find it here!
How do you integrate what your members are passionate about into your programming? Does your Club engage with topics in popular culture? Let us know in the comments or email ClubXBlog@bgca.org and YOU could be featured in an upcoming post!