By Macy Jenkins

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) – “Black Panther” hit theaters this weekend and has already broken the record for the highest-grossing movie opening on President’s Day Weekend. Now activists are using the film’s momentum to encourage African Americans to vote.

“Whenever you see yourself represented properly in mainstream, you feel empowered to make change and participate in society because you feel a part of society,” said Ericka Claudio, a volunteer with the Electoral Justice Project.

From coast to coast, the excitement about Marvel’s newest film is electrifying – and activists with the Electoral Justice Project are trying to harness that energy to push more African-Americans to the polls.

The movement is called #WakandaTheVote.

“I think that the movie has definitely set a tone in the black community to encourage black folks to get out and protect their own Wakandas!” Claudio said.

Wakanda is the technologically-supreme fictional country and backdrop for the film. An idyllic society where Africans live peacefully and self-sufficiently, hidden away from the outside world.

“If we come together and watch a movie, then we should be able to come together, like they did before, and get out to the polls and vote,” said Tequilla Miller.

Organizers released a how-to guide: encouraging volunteers to gather a squad, research state laws and head to a theater to register new voters.

“Walked right in the theater and started asking folks in line if they were registered,” Claudio said.

Within a three hour span, she and a friend had spoken to dozens of moviegoers in an Atlanta theater.

“Many of the folks that I spoke with were already registered but they did not know that there was an upcoming election this year!” Claudio explained.

“We can vote as a people and we can make a difference,” said Cassandra Jennings, CEO of the Greater Sacramento Urban League (GSUL).

Jennings says the League is eager to mobilize local volunteers and take advantage of the movement.

“Often times we think our vote doesn’t matter because historically, and still in some states, they’re trying to suppress our vote,” she said. “And if they’re at the movie theatre if they are energized, it’s a perfect time to really go and try to get people engaged.”

Miller says taking her nine-year-old daughter to see the film on President’s Day was a step towards helping her child find the power in her own voice.

“Oh when she goes to school, I’m seeing it again!” Miller said.

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