A young boy smiles and crossing his arms, makes the "Wakanda Forever" salute.

Quadyn, a contest participant, gives the "Wakanda Forever" salute.

Celebrating A Hero's Life

A Community in West Tennessee Honors the Life of Black Panther Star Chadwick Boseman with Literacy Contest

Fans of all ages mourned the loss of actor, and star of Marvel’s Black Panther, Chadwick Boseman after he tragically lost his life to cancer last summer. Some of Boseman’s youngest admirers were deeply affected by the loss. Countless tributes from the tiniest Marvel fans were posted online and in driveways around the world in the days and weeks following Boseman's death.

One school encouraged students to channel their feelings of loss into a teachable moment. In western Tennessee, Save the Children staff members organized a virtual literary contest to bring children together and give them an opportunity to celebrate one of their favorite heroes through writing and drawing.

"The kids here were really sad about his death. It felt like a hopeless time because 2020 had already felt bad enough," Shayla, a coordinator for Save the Children said. "I think having this event really lifted their spirits. It gave the kids a chance to honor Chadwick's legacy and make sure it lives on."

The event, titled "Black Panther Salute," invited children in the community to submit essays and drawings describing what a hero meant to them. Save the Children staff encouraged children to submit pictures or essays because "both writing and drawing can help boost literacy,” she said.

To Shayla's surprise, many of the works focused on the actor, not just the wildly popular superhero he portrayed on the big screen. Not shocking to her, however, was the success of the event, which resulted in dozens of submissions. 

"The majority of our community is African-American. I felt like having an event to honor someone who is also African-American would get more of us involved," said Shayla. "Hosting an event to honor someone who looks like you, and who is also a hero, we knew would get a lot of people involved."

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the event was entirely virtual with submissions sent in via email. News of the contest, which was publicized on social media and in local newspapers, reached as far away as Georgia. One of the winning participants was from Atlanta.

"I was surprised to see that our event had spread so far," said Shayla. "It was great to see that we weren't just having an impact on our own community, but that we were able to bring this event to other communities – and even into another state, as well."

The participant from Atlanta was among three winners chosen for grand prizes, which were Black Panther-themed, and all participants were celebrated and received prizes for their work.

Learn more about Save the Children’s education programming in the U.S. here.

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