When the founder of “Tuff Cookiez,” a female empowerment organization focusing on young women, was visiting LA this past August, she said she wanted to hold a confidence-building event for youths in the city of Detroit.
She was in LA working with young girls to help build up their self-esteem by having a spa day and taking them to see a “Cinderella” movie screening. During the events, she said, she also saw a teaser for the movie "King Richard" and thought how much impact the movie could have on youths back home.
“I was like, I can’t wait until this movie comes out,” said Dorothy Burston. “I am going to get a theater and fill that sucker up with kids so they can be inspired by this.”
So, on Nov. 20, Burston not only had one movie theater at the Emagine Royal Oak filled up with children, she had two.
Tuff Cookiez, along with The SylentHeart Foundation and The Horatio Williams Foundation, partnered to offer children from Detroit a day at the movies to watch the story behind two of the world's most famous tennis players of all time and their father. "King Richard" is a biopic of both Venus and Serena Williams' dad and coach, Richard Williams, who the women have credited as the force that helped make them sports superstars today. Burston said that after learning more about the story of Richard, she knew that kids all over needed to hear and see this film.
“He was dedicated to his family and his daughters succeeding in their tennis career," she said. "Children need to be taught that as long as you believe in yourself and remain dedicated, you can achieve anything you want in this world.”
Tonesa Welch, founder of The SylentHeart Foundation, which focuses on helping children with incarcerated parents and those who are also homeless, said that seeing this movie was crucial for the children her group serves.
“I think that it is so inspiring to know that no matter where you come from, or what obstacles you face, you can still succeed," Welch said. “Even if you don’t have both parents in the home, you still keep going and you will succeed.”
A total of 408 people, both guardians and children, were in attendance for the 2-hour, 24-minute movie event that spotlighted the life of the Venus, Serena, their three sisters and parents who came up from a hardscrabble life in Compton, California, before moving to Florida when Venus and Serena were teenagers.
Included in the attendees were several children from Friends of the Children-Detroit, a nonprofit organization that works with children who have come from an impoverished, violent or traumatic background. The Executive Director said she felt it was important for their children to see the film because inspiring youths really does make a difference.
"It is important for our children to dream of possibilities for themselves by seeing others achieve success by overcoming barriers," said Nicole McKinney, executive director of the Detroit location. "Particularly people of color who come from similar backgrounds."
A group of 25 children from Detroit were transported to the viewing by a valet service provided by actor Tristen Fazekas, who is currently playing the role of a detective in the STARZ series "BMF." Fazekas said he provided the transportation with only one request of the children: “Pay it forward.”
”I am where I am today because someone believed in me … and it took a village to get me here," the 37-year-old actor said. “I don’t know all of these children’s personal stories, but I want them to know someone cares enough to create memories I hope will last a lifetime.”
Welch, who also is a former member of the Black Mafia Family organization, said that neither her nonprofit, nor Burston’s receives funding. So the donations from outside groups, including Chedda Boys Films, The Hyman Group, Emagine Theatres and Detroit educator Brian Banks, along with the assistance of the Horatio Williams Foundation, was very helpful in making the event a success.
Each child who registered at the event was given movie tickets, beverage cups and a goodie bag that had water bottles, a beanie hat with affirmational quotes, a "King Richard" wristband and posters of the promo picture for the movie.
Star Valet, owned by Sam Bazzi, donated candy for the children to enjoy, and inside the cup holder of each seat in the theaters sat large cups of popcorn for every patron.
And little Ayden Epps, 7, who was attending the screening with his mother, Fee Epps, 36, of Detroit, could not have been happier to be at the event. While waiting at the concession stand with his mom, grabbing his snacks, he said: “I’m here to watch a movie with my mom and I can’t wait!”
Jasmin Barmore was born and raised in the city of Detroit. She covers the city's neighborhoods and communities using her passion as her drive to give the voiceless a voice. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or by sending her a message on Instagram or Twitter at @bjasminmare.
This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Nonprofits team up to inspire Detroit kids with 'King Richard' film