Lee R. Watkins
Special to The New Tri-State Defender
Excitement for the superhero film “Black Panther” is riding a high nationally and now Shelby County Schools students are hoping to join in the fun. John Best, broadcast operations advisor for the school district, is leading a local effort to get students and teachers a seat in theaters for the highly-touted movie.
Best is known around Memphis for creating the hashtag #IBelieveInSCS. He started the campaign years ago after low morale and negative comments increased amid low test scores and decreasing school enrollment due to competition with charter schools.
Best started creating videos of parents, teachers and students explaining why they believe in Shelby County schools. He posted the videos on his personal social media pages, generating several thousand views and retweets.
The former high school basketball standout is attempting to manufacture similar buzz later this month, when he and a host of students, teachers and parents visit Malco Paradiso to watch “Black Panther.” He is expecting to fill the movie theater and have all attendees wear black. A link to register for the free event is scheduled for next week at www.scsk12.org.
Few, if any, who know Best would be surprised that he is taking the lead in getting students to a “Black Panther” showing. In 2015, Best took 50 students to watch the film “Straight Outta Compton” to increase knowledge and positivity within the school district community. It was the first of several movies Best has sponsored, including “The Birth of a Nation,” “Hidden Figures” and “Marshall” – all movies of consciousness in the African-American community. Best also took a group of Hispanic students to watch the film “Coco.”
So who is Best? He’s a man whose passion carved out a successful basketball career until he discovered his real purpose for life – helping students.
Best, 46, was born and raised in New Jersey, before moving to Memphis with his family in 1987. He played basketball at Whitehaven High School and went on to average 21 points and seven rebounds over his four-year career at Tennessee Tech University.
In 1993, Best was drafted by the New Jersey Nets in the second round with the 36th overall pick. The future appeared bright for the 6-foot-8-inch power forward, however, things never materialized in the NBA, so he made several stops internationally on his way to a successful basketball career.
When he retired from basketball after his 14th season, Best returned to Memphis and worked seven years as a school security officer for Memphis City Schools (now Shelby County Schools). He taught for a year before accepting his current role as a broadcast operations advisor for the Department of Broadcast services (88.5 FM & C19 TV).
This latest effort by Best – getting students in the theaters for “Black Panther” – is another indication that #IBelieveInSCS is not just a hashtag.