EO council members take essay winners to see ‘Black Panther’

Photo Courtesy Denzel Turner
East Orange 3rd Ward Councilman Bergson Leneus, fifth from left, sits with the group of 60 school children that he and 3rd Ward Councilwoman Quilla Talmadge took to see the popular new movie ‘Black Panther’ on Sunday, Feb. 18. Leneus is the city’s first-ever Haitian American elected official.EAST ORANGE, NJ — The Marvel Cinematic Universe movie “Black Panther” had a $235 million opening weekend, and East Orange 3rd Ward Council members Quilla Talmadge and Bergson Leneus helped contribute to that box office record.

“We took 60 babies from the 3rd Ward to see ‘Black Panther’ on Sunday, Councilwoman Talmadge and I. The 3rd Ward City Council team, along with some dedicated chaperones,” said Leneus on Tuesday, Feb. 20. “Yes, it was a 3rd Ward event, in partnership with the East Orange School District. We had a private screening at Newark Screens in Newark. Each child was also given refreshments as well.”

Leneus recently made local history in East Orange for becoming the first Haitian-American elected official. Talmadge is currently one of the city’s longest-serving elected officials, and she has set a record of her own for the most consecutive times being chosen to serve as the East Orange City Council chairperson.

Talmadge and Leneus said they decided to offer tickets to the movie about an African king and his family in their kingdom on the African continent, as a centerpiece of their Black History Month observance, because they said it is important for black and brown children to see positive depictions of people who look just like them.

“I sent representatives to serve as chaperones, because I couldn’t go, due to my church having its anniversary celebration,” said Talmadge on Tuesday, Feb. 20. “We ran a contest with the kids from the two schools in the 3rd Ward and the kids wrote essays and the teachers picked the best ones. I heard that it’s great. Everybody’s talking about it. I’m definitely going to see it.”

Leneus said he told Talmadge the movie is great and urged her to see it as soon as she can. He agreed with her that children always need positive role models in a world where black hasn’t always been considered beautiful.

“We chose ‘Black Panther’ because of its historical significance,” said Leneus. “This was an opportunity for our children to see black and brown faces grace the silver screen as royalty, something they have never seen in their lifetime.”

And Leneus said there were other perks for the essay contest winners, in addition to going to seeing the movie for free.

“We also gave each child a copy of a ‘Black Panther’ comic book, as well as a supplemental comic book, in order to encourage reading, imagination and creativity,” Leneus said. “We also included a special card from Board of Education President (Terry Swanson-)Tucker, as well as myself, with a positive quote from the movie as a keepsake. We tried to tie education, arts, royalty, black pride and mentoring in one package and I think we were successful in that effort.”