Conscious And Unconscious Bias Event

By Ernst Lamothe Jr.
In a room filled with community members, students and legislators, Thornton Township was the site of two acclimated speakers who talked to the crowd about unconscious and conscious bias. Presented by the township Human Relations Commission, the event held at South Suburban College featured Dr. James Lawrence and Jane Elliot, who is most known for her groundbreaking “Blue eyes-Brown eyes” experiment. More than 320 people came to the event.

“We decided to bring Jane Elliot to Thornton Township because she is a dynamic woman who brings an interesting perspective but people need to hear,” said Dr. Jerry Weems, director of youth and family services at Thornton Township. “The community has responded well to us bringing global speakers like Jane and Dick Gregory.”
A former third grade teacher, Elliot has spent most of her life as an anti-racism activist and educator.

“If you want to be a racist, you go and be a racist. But if you bring it to me, you will learn very very shortly that your problem is ignorance,” said Elliot. “It is not skin color but your ignorance about skin color and I will not tolerate it.”

She is known for her “Blue eyes–Brown eyes” exercise she conducted with her class the day after Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. She divided the class based on eye color and had the blue-eyed children as the superior group. Elliott provided brown fabric collars and asked the blue-eyed students to wrap them around the necks of their brown-eyed peers as a method to easily identify the minority group. She gave the blue-eyed children extra privileges, such as second helpings at lunch, access to the new jungle gym, and five extra minutes at recess. The blue-eyed children sat in the front of the classroom, and the brown-eyed children were sent to sit in the back rows. The blue-eyed children were encouraged to play only with other blue-eyed children and to ignore those with brown eyes. Elliott would not allow brown-eyed and blue-eyed children to drink from the same water fountain and often chastised the brown-eyed students when they did not follow the exercise’s rules or made mistakes. The following week, she reversed the exercise, making the brown-eyed children superior.

“It is important to have these open conversations about conscious and unconscious bias. We can’t shy away from these important discussions because that’s how we can grow as a nation and grow individually,” said Ernst Lamothe Jr., communication manager at Thornton Township/

Before Elliot spoke, Dr. James, a Chicago-based clinical psychologist, also talked about conscious and unconscious bias.

“When we do unconscious bias corporate training, we talk about this awareness piece and that is one step,” said James., “It is just one step where people are made aware that they are kind of bias and can be kind of racist. But then we expect them after one day that they are going to change their lives and do something new and that is not the case. This has to be more than simply a one day conversation.”

Taste of Thornton Township

Moving to South Suburban College for the first time, the Taste of Thornton Township saw larger crowds that filled the expansive campus full of games, rides and live entertainment. Thornton Township Supervisor Frank M. Zuccarelli looked over the crowd and shouted; 

“We’re having a great time today at the Taste,” he added. “The Taste is one of our largest events and brings people throughout Thornton Township in one place to enjoy great live music, food and family entertainment.”

The almost 90 degree day did not temper excitement for the 17th annual event. This year’s Taste featured free activities for the kids ranging from face painting, carnival rides, and games to back to school haircuts, and book bags with school supplies. The event also had a petting zoo, a large assortment of food and craft vendors, live music from several bands and a classic car show. 

“This year’s Taste was better than last year. More people came out this year than last year,” said Tui M. Muse, Taste chairman and Human Relations Commissioner. The car show was excellent. It was amazing. The food was great and lots of variety. Entertainment was fantastic.”
Several live bands entertained the crowd including a cameo appearance by Trysh Granberry, “America’s Got Talent” contestant, a Dolton resident and Thornton Township General Assistance employee.

Michael Jackson, James Brown, and Tina Turner impersonators dazzled the crowd,” said Joyce Washington, Thornton Township trustee. Washington. “The Seniors enjoyed themselves at the bingo tables. This event is for the community to come together and enjoy food, entertainment, family and friends. We appreciate our great community. ”
People from all over Thornton Township and areas as far as Chicago and Indiana were there. Mayors, elected officials throughout the area were in attendance. 

“South Suburban College being our new venue this year was incredible. We were able to expand like never before,” said Ernst Lamothe Jr., Thornton Township Community Relations Manager.

The packed weekend also featured the second annual Taste of Thornton Township Basketball Tournament. The tournament involved teens and police playing on the same team for the pride of their town. This year, the Town of Markham defeated the Village of Dolton. Defending champion Lansing had to relinquish its title. Police Chief Dennis Murrin Jr. was in attendance with other officers and believed the program was an essential community initiative.

“It was a great atmosphere seeing the teenagers and police officers working together,” said Murrin. “This was something that we definitely want to be apart of each year.”

17th Annual TASTE of Thornton Township Celebration 

Thornton Township Presents 
It’s 17th Annual TASTE of Thornton Township Celebration 
Thornton Township will hosts its 17th Annual Taste of Thornton Township Celebration, in a new location on the campus of South Suburban College, 15800 S. State St. in South Holland. Opening night features the second annual Taste of Thornton Township Tourney at 5:30 p.m. Friday, Aug. 24.
Police and teenagers from various different communities will team up together playing on the same team for the pride of their town or village and focusing on working with each other. Lansing Police Department and teens won the tournament last year. Typically, communities have police officers and kids playing against each other in a basketball tournament; however, Thornton Township officials decided the alternative made more sense.
“Last year was an incredible success and people really understood that kids and police officers should be playing together instead of opposite team,” said Frank M. Zuccarelli, Thornton Township supervisor. “We felt like it brought the community together even more and those are the kinds of programs that we support in Thornton Township. This year we are looking to make it even bigger.”
The five-on-five basketball tournament, which will once again take place at South Suburban College, is an extension of the Faith, Dignity and Respect Initiative. The program’ goal is helping communities along with police officers and teenagers working together. 
“When teenagers are able to see police officers out of the uniform and have meaningful interactions with them that carry a lot of weight when they eventually see them in uniform,” said Ernst Lamothe Jr. Thornton Township communication manager, who oversees the basketball tournament. “Every police officer we talked with last year saw the tournament as an important way to interact and reach teenagers and that gave us the feedback we needed to have the tournament again. They really saw it as a unifying event. ”
Then on Saturday, Aug. 25, the Taste of Thornton Township event takes places where more than 1,500 people attend. The headliner will be Lakeside featuring Mark Woods Jr. and some of the opening acts include our very own Trysh Grandberry, who was a contestant on America Got Talent, the Chicago Boyz Acrobats, Visions of Santana and Past Life.

“The Taste is one of our largest events and brings people throughout Thornton Township in one place to enjoy great live music, food and family entertainment,” said Frank M. Zuccarelli, Thornton Township supervisor. 
In addition to a variety of food vendors and a large selection of crafts, the township will be giving away free book bags with school supplies, free back to school haircuts for kids, a petting zoo and Bingo. An antique Classic Car show sponsored by Napleton River Oaks Car Dealership will take place that day from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.  
“This event has something for everyone of all ages,” said Tui M. Muse, chairman of the taste. “We continue to make the Taste one of the largest and best events in the southland. I think people will be excited about all the new features we have brought in this year.”
A variety of food will be offered including Ribs, hot dogs, hamburgers, catfish, jerk chicken, turkey legs, Italian sausage and beef, nachos, cheesecake, snow cones, Italian ice, specialty teas, and more said Delia Medina, event planner for Thornton Township.

“This event is for the community to come together and enjoy food, entertainment, family and friends,” said Joyce Washington, Thornton Township trustee. We appreciate our great community. This year’s Taste of Thornton Township will have a variety of entertainment for attendees from as far as Chicago, Indiana, and local residents.” 

A variety of food will be offered including Ribs, hot dogs, hamburgers, catfish, jerk chicken, turkey legs, Italian sausage and beef, nachos, cheesecake, snow cones, Italian ice, specialty teas and much more.
“We have been hosting this Taste for 17 years and it will be even larger, and more,” said Delia Medina, event planner for Thornton Township. “There are a lot of free activities for the kids – face painting, carnival rides, games, back to school haircuts, and book bags with school supplies.” 

Annual Riverdale Community Ride

Frank M. Zuccarelli, Supervisor and Thornton Township Board of Trustees sponsored the First Annual Riverdale Community Ride. The event was organized by Thornton Township Youth & Family Services Department -Summer Enrichment Program. Kids and adults rode through various township villages and towns on the seven mile bike trip. ͞This was an incredible event that we encouraged everyone to come out and have a good time,͟ said India Riley, program developer for the Thornton Township Youth & Family Services. “This is something that we are looking to expand in future years. We like the idea of bringing people together to walk, bike, run, and just enjoy our community in Thornton Township.͟

Main Father

The forgotten holiday. Flower shops don’t care. No need to make reservations because you can walk into most restaurants that day with little to no wait time. Amazon barely remembers. People remember the first official day of summer (June 20) easily over this holiday that typically is a week people before. Father’s Day often sneaks up on suspecting family members. But the Lansing Journal has your backs fathers and we appreciate you. Here are some local Lansing fathers we are celebrating.

Charles Wynn, 44,
Having a blended family has been an incredible experience for Charles Wynn. It shows there are many types of fathers in this world providing nurturing devotion and wisdom.
“A father is important because it is part of our responsibility to guide our kids and teach them what is right,” said Wynn. “There are a lot of positive and negative roads you can take so you want to do everything you can to keep them on the right track. I show all my children the same love and care, so they don’t need to look outside the family for that kind of love.”

Wynn, who has nine children, which includes five step children, feels a special responsibility raising African American children. He believes there are challenges in this world that could affect each of them.
“There are a lot of things that are happening in this country and too often people have stereotypes about young black men and women,” said Wynn. You have to go through life with that kind of outside perception, so it is important to teach your kids about that and give them the internal love and support they need to get through everything.”

But along with support, he views a father’s role as providing the best role model in their children’s lives.
“Children pay attention all the time and you should be that example that they look up to,” said Wynn, whose family includes his wife, Lanita. “If they see you working hard and see your dedication, they will follow your lead. We have a lot of good fathers in this world that don’t get the attention they deserve.”
There is one piece of advice that he wishes someone told him before he became a father that he gives to others.
“Even when things aren’t going perfect you have to keep trying your best and eventually it will all work out. It is easy to get frustrated, but you must just consistently stay on top of your kids. They might not always appreciate it at first, but they will understand it all later,” added Wynn.

Kevin Ziemkowski
Great events in life always change you and becoming a father is no different. For Kevin Ziemkowski, he said it changed him greatly as a man. Being responsible for the upbringing of children elevates your belief in relationship and family. You have difficult conversations that are expected and unexpected and give them the tools to navigate life.

“It’s cliché when everyone says they grow up fast, but the fact is that is incredibly true,” said Ziemkowski, father of Korey, 14 and Cody, 12. “Time goes by so fast. I joke one day they are kids and the next week I will be taking them to college. Family has always been important to us. We grew up with a strong, loving family and we want to give that to our kids.

His own father died when he was 25-years-old. He understands the bonds that are created early in life.
“Having a father or a father figure in a child’s life is so important and can’t be underestimated,” said Ziemkowski. “That is taking nothing away from the incredible work that mothers do every day. I just believe a child can have great value in having both a male and female influence in their lives because no one person has all the answers.”

He has some interesting yet sincere and meaningful advice for fathers; take in everything.
“Appreciate the horrible, appreciate the good, appreciate the unpredictable and appreciate the incredible,” said Ziemkowski. “It is absolutely a blessing to be around your family. You don’t want to miss anything in life. These moments are important. We love being the popular house in the neighborhood where our kids’ friends come over. We have Scout meetings at our house and I like being around for that.”

Miguel Gutierrez, 43,
When you have multiple children, you know that comes with multiple personalities. For Miguel Gutierrez, his three children are no different. His oldest Angel, 14, reminds him of himself as a young boy; very calm, relaxed, smart, and generous. His middle child, John Paul, 11, is incredible happy, playful and loves to socialize. His youngest Victoria, 3, has a strong personality and knows what she wants and won’t stop until she gets it.
“Being a father is challenging, but incredibly rewarding,” said Gutierrez, 43. “You have to make time for each of them and they all have different personalities and needs while all treating them fairly.”

Whether it’s helping Angel with his homework or playing video games, jumping on the trampoline with John Paul or pretending to eat food with Victoria in her play kitchen set, it’s all about being together.

“I’m getting my associates degree in computer information systems so it’s like we are all going to school. But anything I can do to spend quality time with them makes me happy,” said Gutierrez. “I know I didn’t get a chance to spend as much time as I wanted with my father because he was always working in the United States while I lived in Mexico. I wish I would have been able to spend more time with him.”

The family, which includes his wife, XXX, goes on vacation together to places like Mexico. It’s those times when you can stop life and truly bond.
“We all have so many things going on our lives that we really get a chance to catch up and take a breath on vacation.” he added. “And as difficult as it can be, try to be prepared for the unexpected. What I mean by that is just know there are so many unexpected things that will happen when you are raising kids, so you have to handle all the rollercoasters in life”

Being patience remains the best advice he was given that he passes on to other fathers. “There will be times when your patience gets tested, but you can’t let it overcome you,” said Gutierrez.

He said Father’s Day is considered an important holiday in the Latino community.

“We celebrate it just as much as Mother’s Day because being a Hispanic father, we know the hard work and dedication it takes so our families tend to show us how much they appreciate us.”

Community Job Fair


Things We Liked About April

Rainy and wet one day, the next day full of warmth and greenery, that’s April. Besides the weather, the month is a significance of new life, and it brings us the best season, Spring. So, why is April so special? Well, it is named after the Greek goddess of love, Aphrodite, the month’s flowers are daises and sweet peas, bright and sweet-smelling flowers, and the its birthstone is a diamond. Why else is April so special? You can celebrate National Humor Month, Grilled Cheese Month, and Soft Pretzel Month all in April.

Before we knew April as the fourth month in the calendar, it was known as the second in the ancient Roman calendar. It is also one of four months to have 30 days. April 1st was used to celebrate the Birth of Christ up until Pope Julius I declared Christ’s birth would be celebrated December 25th, which is good since now April 1st is known as April Fool’s Day or All Fools Day.

Many great things have happened in the month of April. Apple the computer company, the cult favorite was formed in April. Nickelodeon and Disney kid’s cable was launched in April, as well as TV Guide. Microsoft was founded, as well as the New York City Metropolitan Museum of Art. McDonald’s opened its first restaurant in Des Plaines, Illinois! April has given us the technology, entertainment and food we consume today!

This is the time to plant or start the garden you always wanted to have. Enjoy the fresh food from Farmer’s markets. The weather is warming up, and fun-filled activities are rolling out. April is warm and full of greenery one day, and rainy and wet the next, don’t forget, April showers bring May flowers.

Women You Should Know

Saturday, March 24, 2018
Briyana Kelly

Vivian G. Harsh

Born Vivian Gordon Harsh in Chicago on May 27, 1890; she was the first African American librarian in the Chicago Public School system, the first Black professional librarian in Chicago, and a significant contributor to the Chicago’s Black Renaissance. Vivian began her 60-year-librarian-career in 1909 as a Junior Clerk at the Chicago Public Library, she received her B.A. from Simmons College in Boston, and she took advanced courses at the University of Chicago Graduate School of Library Science. While working with Carter G. Woodson she recognized the need for librarian services on the South Side of Chicago in the heart of the African American community. Vivian G. Harsh Research Collection of Afro-American History and Literature is housed at Carter G. Woodson Library.

Hazel Johnson

Hazel Johnson is known as the “Mother of Environmental Justice Movement”, and a resident of Atlgeld Gardens Public Housing. She founded “People for Community Recovery” in 1979, 10-years after her husband died of lung cancer in 1969, which was the cause for her four decades of activism. She documented illnesses and physical ailments that frequently punished her neighbors. She linked them to polluted air, water, and contaminated soil. She also played a role in Barack Obama’s starting career in public serviceThe Gardens is where he got his start in politics as a Community Organizer in the 1980s. As reported by The Washington Post, Cheryl Johnson, Hazel’s daughter, “was a nursing student when Obama arrived, and she remembers watching him and her mother strategizing many nights at her kitchen table. They made an odd pair, she said: “He was in his 20s. She was in her 40s. But they learned off each other.”” She received a gold medal from George Bush and was recognized by Bill Clinton for her environmental work in Chicago.

Amanda Berry Lewis

Amanda Berry Lewis was born into slavery January 23, 1837 in Long Green, Maryland. Her father worked to buy her family’s freedom. She was a Methodist Holiness Evangelist and Missionary, who traveled to Great Britain, India, and Africa to share her gifts. After her services overseas, she returned to the states where she founded the Amanda Smith Orphanage and Industrial Home for Abandoned and Destitute Colored Children in Harvey, Illinois in 1899. She couldn’t support the school sufficiently, so she left and moved to Florida which became her final resting place.

Dr. Maria K. Mootry

Maria Mootry was born January 3, 1944 in Nashville, Tennessee. She graduated from Farragut High School in Chicago, Illinois at 16-years-old. She went on to receive her BA from Roosevelt University, Masters at the University of Wisconsin, and Doctorate from Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. She performed research in bioethics regarding race. She was a Professor of English and an unknown leader in African American history who was an Co-Editor of Gwendolyn Brooks “A Life Distilled”. Mootry taught at Southern Illinois of Carbondale, Grinnell College, and University of Illinois at Springfield. In 1980, she co-Founded the Poetry Factory in Carbondale, Illinois which encouraged others to write and publish. Much of her work isn’t known but its been floating around making a difference. You can visit Dr. Maria K. Mootry’s works at Carter G. Woodson Library, Maria Mootry Papers, and her website .

Mother Mary Lena Lewis Tate

Mother Mary Lewis Tate was the first known woman to organize an internationally recognized church and to elevate to Bishop ranking. She was born Mary Lena Street January 5, 1871 in Vanleer, Tennessee. She spent most of her life in the rural south where she had little opportunity to be educated. She established the Church of the Living God, the Pillar, and Ground of Truth, Inc. in 1903. Tate’s Apostle service extended far beyond religion into the heart of the people and the system of inalienable rights and freedoms. St. Mary Lena Lewis Tate prevailed through the struggle of education, transportation, and communication to carry out her duties. She traveled by walking while using barges, steamships, mule-drawn wagons, broken-down automobiles, and Jim Crow trains. She compassionately surpassed the many barriers of social and religious prejudice and biasness.

Women Of Honor Event

Women of Honor Celebration

By Briyana Kelly

On March 3, 2018, Thornton Township celebrated the 10th annual Women of Honor Celebration at St. Archangel Michael in Lansing.

The Honorees:

Dr. Sallie Penman

  • From Education to Politics
  • Village Clerk and has been a resident of South Holland for 30 years.
  • Appointed to South Holland Village in October 2004, elected in 2005, and re-elected in 2009, 2013, and 2017.
  • Director of the Administrators’ Academy in Chicago, IL where she provides Leadership to 1600 administrators of Chicago Public Schools
  • Mother is her inspiration and biggest cheerleader

“As an Educator, I’m inspired by our children. We can’t just complain about things, you have to be the change that you seek.”

Joyce Forbes

  • Married for 51 years to Steve Forbes
  • Lifelong resident of Dolton and Riverdale until 2008
  • Public Service began in 1983 starting School District 148 School Board, served 9 years as am member and president.
  • Brought technology into the Village during Y2K
  • Achieved certification as Master Municipal Clerk
    “Trustworthiness, honesty, being a good friend. And respecting and being respectful of others. And knowing that everyone is not going to agree with your opinion and but being accommodating. “

Vivian Payne

  • Born and raised in Thornton, 24-year resident of Lansing.
  • Prior to being elected Clerk, she was the Executive Assistant to Lansing Mayor Norm Abbott for 8 years and took on the roles of Deputy Clerk, Freedom of Information Officer, Traffic Compliance Administrator and Zoning Board Secretary.
  • In 2010, Vivian initiated Lansing’s first annual Community Clean-Up Day which brings together hundreds of volunteers each spring to pick up trash throughout the Village.
  • In 2016, in conjunction with Community Clean-Up Day, Payne organized Lansing’s first electronic recycling event for residents, where the Village collected on record 642 televisions in under 3 hours.
  • Vivian is a member of the Lansing Business Women’s Association, an organization that brings together business women.
  • She provides them with professional development opportunities to enrich themselves and others through leadership, education and networking.

“I love helping people that need help.”

Rose McGill

  • Wife to Michael McGill of The Dells
  • Very well loved by the constituents
  • Couldn’t make it due to illness and difficulty getting around, currently in rehabilitation.
  • Rose McGill has been a community activist and leader in the South Suburbs of Chicago since the late 60s
  • In 1969, she founded Rose’s House of Charm to help area youth improve their self-esteem and break into acting and modeling.
  • She has been instrumental in helping young people from our community featured in radio and television commercials, magazines, TV sitcoms and movies.
  • Her students have gone on to have successful careers in fields as diverse as academia, finance, medicine, law, fashion design, and business.
  • Janet Rogers, Public Relations Coordinator of South Cook County Mosquito Abatement District, accepted the award on behalf of the family. Janet had this to say about Rose, “Rose was a very energetic, outstanding, outgoing person, and community minded person”

Thornton Township Black Panther event unites past and future

Hundreds line up to see a real Black Panther and enjoy the Black Panther movie


LANSING, Ill. (February 18, 2018) – “Learn the true significance of the Black Panther Party during the 60s and 70s first hand, and then watch a free private screening of Marvel’s Black Panther, the first major movie featuring a Black superhero,” read the February 7 email invitation from Thornton Township. The township hosts an event every year in observance of Black History Month, and this year’s release of the Black Panther movie opened up some new opportunities.

The February 16 event combined a free, private showing of the movie with a 20-minute presentation by Dr. Jamal Turner, a former member of the Black Panther Party. An estimated 600 people lined up outside the doors of Lansing’s Cinema 8 theater, per instructions they had received via email during the week leading up to the event. Clear communication and plenty of volunteers helped ensure efficient flow of the excited crowd into two separate theaters, beginning at 9:15 on a Friday morning.

Rather than simply provide a description of the event or a review of the movie, The Lansing Journal and Thornton Township decided to take a different approach. Ernst Lamothe, Thornton Township’s Director of Community and Public Relations, and Melanie Jongsma, Managing Editor at The Lansing Journal, interviewed each other about the experience. That conversation appears in question/answer format below:



How did the idea come about to have a Black Panther event? Did you book Dr. Jamal Turner first, or did you think of the movie first and then work to make a connection with the Black Panther movement?


The event was the brainchild of Dr. Jerry Weems, our Youth and Family Services Director. He thought about ways to continue to elevate our Black History Month program. Last year, for example, we had the outstanding Dick Gregory—a civil rights activist, author, comedian, and leader. (We were fortunate to have him, especially since he passed away late last year.) Then the idea came around connecting the Black Panther movie but finding a way to also educate people about the Black Panther organization. It almost happened simultaneously—the idea of a private screening of the movie as well as connecting with Dr. Turner, who is a good friend of Dr. Weems.

What did you find interesting about the event? Why did you want to participate?


I first learned about the Black Panther superhero from Ta-Nehisi Coates a couple years ago. I have followed Coates’ writing for The Atlantic, and when he began scripting a new Black Panther graphic novel, he shared that experience with Atlantic readers. It was a new kind of writing for him, and he talked about the similarities and differences between comic book writing and journalism. Coates also talked about what superheroes meant to him as a child in Baltimore, and how meaningful it was for him to be working on Black Panther. So I was eager to see the movie because of what I learned about the character from a writer I respect. For Thornton Township to add Dr. Jamal Turner and make the connection to the real-life Black Panther movement—that was just the perfect bonus.



There is a lot of misinformation about the Black Panther organization. This is an organization that cooked thousands of meals a week for poor children, set up free health clinics, set up tuition-free schools, went to schools like Yale University to preach about the importance of being drug-free, and helped various other marginalized groups get the fair treatment they deserve. PBS had an excellent special about some of the incredible work that the organization did. Unfortunately not everyone gets taught the nuances and rich history of many people. So often, when history is not taught thoroughly, then people don’t always seek out the truth.


You’re right. The impression I grew up with was that the Black Panthers were a militant, angry movement, and I never thought to question that perception. But Dr. Turner gave us a more well-rounded understanding. He talked about the real sense of community that was so important to the movement, and the sacrifice and brotherhood that were necessary in order to create that community. It really shifted my perception of the Black Panthers. I’m glad I had the opportunity to learn that.


That’s in line with our biggest hope for the event—we wanted people in the community to not only celebrate the rich history and contributions that black people have made throughout the world, but also remind people that Black History is American History. This was more than just a private screening of one of the most hyped movies of the year. This was an awareness opportunity. In fact, one of the giveaways we gave each attendee was Black History flash cards—we want people to know this history! We want people to know these incredible facts about a lot of incredible people.
You might have noticed we had a lot of teenagers at the event. What message do you hope they took from the speech and the movie?



Both Dr. Turner and the movie gave a picture of what it’s like to have a purpose beyond yourself. The movie in particular showed the struggle between wanting to isolate and protect “our own,” or choosing to help others and broaden the community. I like that the movie presented those as both valid, understandable choices that will each have different complicated consequences. I hope the teens at the event left with an eagerness to find ways to keep making life better. I hope they feel inspired to keep learning, keep improving, keep exploring. I hope they know that whatever their passion is—technology, music, labor, leadership, family—they can use that to contribute to a community we can all be proud of.


That’s interesting that you mention that. A young woman told me something after the show that will really stick with me. She said there was so much to learn about how much stronger we are when we’re together than when we’re apart. She said we sometimes only talk about the small amount of things that we disagree on, and we don’t really spend much time talking about what we agree on—even though that’s probably the majority. Her takeaway from the movie was that it showed that divisiveness and isolation never help anyone. Those are strong words that you don’t often get from someone who just saw a superhero movie! That’s why this movie was so much more than just another superhero movie.


I agree. I mean, if you want to see a good superhero movie, yes, Black Panther is a great choice. It’s filled with action and surprises and fights and chases! But it’s so much more than that. It was like a history lesson, and a glimpse of the future, and inspiration for now—all wrapped up in elements of Star Trek, the Chronicles of Narnia, Jumanji, and James Bond.



Before opening weekend, the movie was being called “historic,” “groundbreaking,” “momentous.” Did you think it lived up to all that hype?


Definitely! And that really is an incredible thing to say because there was a lot of hype about this movie—not just for weeks, but probably for the last six months. You do not see a lot of movies that have an all black cast that open number one at the box office! Even though recently there has been more success in that area, there is still a stigma that a movie with an all black cast that performs well in the United States won’t do well overseas. However, when you look at the opening weekend numbers for Black Panther, it has shattered both those stereotypes.


I’m glad Thornton Township came up with this innovative idea. An event of this stature really has to be initiated at the township level. I’m also glad that Mayor Eidam was able to give the necessary support so that Lansing could host the event. This is something our community can be proud of. And Thornton Township’s motto— “People helping people” —really takes on additional significance in light of the Black Panther themes.


I got to Cinema 8 early that morning to set up, and I could see people starting to line up outside in the cold already at 8:20am. The doors wouldn’t open until 9:15am, but they wanted to be able to get the perfect seats to see the movie. That meant a lot to me. And then, when the show started, to see and hear people clapping, laughing out loud, and just joyous throughout both screenings—that was wonderful. It was heartwarming to know that this event truly resonated with people.

I’m glad so many people enjoyed it. It really turned out even better than I thought. It was a lot of work, but when you see that many people happy with the experience—it’s all worth it.