Thaddeus "Titus O’Neil" Bullard — former Gators defensive end, professional wrestler, philanthropist and all-around good guy — has seen a lot of things in his many careers.
But he’s never seen a movie like Black Panther, the latest Marvel superhero movie set to hit theaters Feb. 16.
He wants to help black children see the movie, too.
"I’m 40 years old and I’ve never seen a Marvel character that looked like me, as an African-American male," Bullard said.
"This will be the first time I’ve seen a superhero on screen that looks like me and I want kids to not only be able to see superheroes on the screen but also to view themselves as superheroes.
"If they see that on screen, then maybe they can be the next doctor or lawyer or president, whatever they can be. This could be a great teaching moment if we can get them into theaters."
He and Alicia "Joy" McDowell are working together on a Tampa Bay-focused part of the #BlackPantherChallenge, a nationwide movement to raise money to help children see the movie together.
Bullard especially wants to help children from low-income families who attend Title I schools because "those kids don’t get a lot of stuff."
Black Panther is the story of T’Challa, the superhero-king of the imaginary African nation of Wakanda, who was created in 1966 by comic book legends Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. Now it’s the latest superhero blockbuster from Marvel/Disney.
The movie Black Panther is a first in many ways: It’s Marvel’s first black superhero movie, cast mostly with black actors led by a black director.
So far Bullard said he and McDowell have raised enough money to take 500 kids ages 13-18 (sorry adults) to see the movie in theaters in Tampa, Brandon and Wesley Chapel. They’re hoping to raise money to send more kids across the bay area through a GoFundMe. AMC Theatres has waived the $500 fee to rent the theaters.
He said he’s talked to Tampa Bay Buccaneer Gerald McCoy about donating and also with organizations he regularly partners with such as the Hillsborough County School District, Metropolitan Ministries, United Way Suncoast and Academy Prep Center of Tampa, where he teaches a class.
To register, visit the Black Panther screening website.