SHREVEPORT, La. (KTAL/KMSS) – Nearly 1,500 Southwood students on Friday got do something is usually reserved for Hollywood VIPs – they got to preview an upcoming movie, compliments of actor Will Smith, who stars in the movie.
The students have a special group of dads to thank for getting to see the movie, “King Richard,” before the general public, because it is Southwood’s “Dads on Duty” who inspired the actor to provide the special treat.
Dads on Duty, a group of fathers and interested me who patrol Southwood High School, was formed in September by Michael LaFitte, a Southwood High School dad who was concerned about violence after multiple fights broke out on Southwood High School’s campus in September.
On a Sunday following a Friday fight at Southwood, LaFitte organized a meeting with other Southwood parents to try to figure out a way to combat violence and help make the school safe.
What came out of that meeting was LaFitte and a group of other fathers who decided to go to the school and show a strong male presence.
And that’s exactly what they did – the very next day.
At 7:30 a.m., 40 dads showed up on the Southwood Campus and have done so every school day providing support for students while encouraging them to help keep their school safe.
Local media first picked up on the story, and soon the Shreveport dads were all over the mainstream and cable television networks, as well as newspapers across the county, including the Washington Post.
And a month have Dads on Duty became celebrities across the country, the Shreveport City Council and Mayor Adrian Perkins honored them in a special ceremony.
Smith heard the story of the dads and wanted to do something special for them and the kids, and had the perfect thing in mind – an early viewing of “King Richard,” which is the story of Shreveport native Richard Williams, the father of Olympic tennis champions Sabrina and Venus Williams.
With the logistics worked out and Friday selected for the viewing, the plan was executed.
Lafitte was there, and was excited about the students seeing the movie, saying, that story of Richard Williams, who grew up in Cedar Grove, was “an opportunity for our youth to be able to come and see this very movie on this very special day.”
Dads on Duty co-founder Zack Johnson was elated about Smith’s gift and what it would do for the students. “The most important thing is the kids,” Johnson said, “the kids are going to be happy today.”
Southwood board member Tony Nations said, “They’re bouncing off the bus excited skipping down the way to get into the theater. And they were greeted with smiling faces from the theater personnel. And with popcorn and coke; ready to go see a great movie.”
But educators saw the movie as more than just entertainment, and “King Richard” and his story will continue beyond the theater, as it also will be used as a teaching tool inside the classroom
It will also be used as a teaching tool inside the classroom.
Southwood Principal Dr. Kim Pendleton offered some ideas for the classroom follow-ups “So you’re going to see how does the sport of tennis affect the body? How do you plot a diagram throughout a movie? How do you take it out even a little further and say alright let’s talk about Mr. Richard Williams and the life he lived in Cedar Grove during the time he lived.”
Meanwhile, now that the Dads have built a solid relationship with the students, they’re preparing to move forward with Phase 2 of their program.
Craig Lee, board member of Dads on Duty said that phase will consist of working to transform “the minds and spirit of the children, their immediate family and their extended family.”
In addition, Lee said, plans include bringing alumni in place, “so we can encourage the community to embrace their school.”
On Nov. 19, “King Richard” will open in theaters and be streamed exclusively on HBO MAX.
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