The NAACP’s Santa Clarita Valley Chapter hosted a special sold-out screening of the new movie “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” at the Laemmle Theatre in Newhall on Friday.
The event was a fundraiser for the chapter’s education and scholarship fund, but also served as a way for members of the Black community in Santa Clarita to socialize and get to know one another – much of which was done in a reception on the rooftop patio of the theater. Many attendees were wearing white, in remembrance of Chadwick Boseman – star of the first “Black Panther” film who died in 2020.
Barbara White, life membership committee chair of the NAACP’s SCV chapter, said screening films that display representation was another important role of the event.
“Representation matters. You know, we want our children to see us doing different things. So it’s really important for us to promote Black art, to promote Black people, education and all those things that come with it. So it’s very important for us,” said White. “We’re 4% of the population [in Santa Clarita], still kind of feeling our way through. Of course… we have a lot of resistance, but we’re here and we’re going to make a space for ourselves and for the people that are like us, and whoever else wants to come. We don’t exclude anybody, but we definitely want to have a safe place for Black people to celebrate each other and to celebrate the things that we’ve done that we’ve accomplished.”
Saturday’s screening was the second the NAACP has held at the Laemmle, the last being a screening of “The Woman King” in September.
Rlynn Smith-Thomas, second vice president of the SCV chapter, said screening films like “The Woman King” and “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” are ways to fill in knowledge gaps of Black history normally glossed over or not told in the educational system.
“So normally, you get Black history. You get to draw connected dots of Martin Luther King, maybe Rosa Parks, rarely Malcolm X. You know, we came, we participated in America being slaves, we were freed, we had some struggles, we overcame them,” said Smith-Thomas. “That’s not our history, that’s not the totality of our history. Marvel comics are a little different, but it has some historical references as well – so representation is key. If you see all the dolls that are out now with Black Panther – it’s important for young children to see that.”
Smith-Thomas also echoed what many were saying at the event – that while the NAACP is designed to advance and protect people of color, it’s also inclusive and invites all to participate.
“We want the whole community involved. I think so much can be gained by education by talking to each other, meeting each other and getting to know people,” said Smith-Thomas. “We’re just people, we want to live in this community, we want to get to know our neighbors, we want to get along with our neighbors. That’s not a personal issue for me, but there are places where people are struggling with connectivity and engagement with their neighbors in a healthy manner.”
One thing leaders of the SCV chapter wanted people to know is how thankful they are for the support they’ve received and that the NAACP has done positive work since its SCV chapter was created last year.
“We are grateful for their support,” said Valerie Bradford, president of the SCV Chapter. “The work that the NAACP is trying to do here in Santa Clarita cannot be done without the support of our community and so we’re grateful for that. We look forward to more socializing, getting to know our community more and growing our community.”