Students from all across the country celebrated the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday by attending a free screening of the movie Selma, thanks to a group of Black business leaders who raised more than $2 million to fund the educational outing.
The Martin Luther King Jr. holiday is usually celebrated by teens and adults through community service, educational panels and peaceful demonstrations.
For the younger children, the holiday usually just marks a day off from school.
A group of Black business leaders decided to change that this year by getting 7th, 8th and 9th grade students into theaters to watch Selma.
The Oscar-nominated film captures the power and importance of the Civil Rights Movement and Martin Luther King Jr.’s ability to help lead the community to one of the most important political victories of the time—Black citizens obtaining the right to vote.
The Black business leaders teamed up with Paramount Pictures to launch sponsored free screenings for students in select cities across the nation.
Students had to present a school ID and a report card in order to gain access to attend the screenings.
The free screenings garnered a massive turnout with more than 27,000 middle school and high school freshmen students in New York alone.
As the Selma For Students efforts continued to grow, roughly 285,000 free tickets were distributed to 24 cities, including Nashville and San Francisco.
It’s a massive scale to reach, especially since the movement started as a simple conversation over dinner.
The group of Black executives were all chatting at a dinner party on New Year’s Eve when the idea came about and, over the MLK weekend, the plan came to fruition and exceeded expectations.
“The reactions have been incredible,” said Megan Colligan, President of Marketing and Distribution at Paramount, to Fox News. “There’s something so special in not planning it, it really came from organic honest inspiration and then people were willing to dedicate themselves to doing something that’s never been done before.”
Students were encouraged to use the hashtag #SelmaForStudents to discuss their thoughts about the film online and generate healthy conversations.
In addition to the free screenings, some communities also hosted discussions about the film with the students to make sure they truly paid attention to the message and learned from such an important moment in history.
Based on the students’ reactions, the discussions were quite effective.
One 12-year-old student from Forest Street Elementary School in New Jersey told Fox News that the film was a “great opportunity” to learn more about his history and another 13-year-old student acknowledged voting rights as something many people take for granted.
“The police officers beating the peaceful protesters had the biggest impact on me,” Antonio Green, who said he saw the movie twice, told Fox News. “People have to understand the struggle African-Americans had to go through to vote. We take it for granted.”