Selma Hits the Big Screen
by Simone Hunter-Hobson on Friday, February 6th, 2015
Oscar Grant is the modern day Jimmie Lee Jackson: both were unarmed black men who were shot by white police officers. Protesters from the 1960’s marching and shouting “We Want Freedom!” on the streets of Birmingham eerily echo Boston today. The bombing of the Colorado Springs NAACP building by domestic terrorists in 2015 is painfully reminiscent of the Ku Klux Klan members’ bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church that killed four girls in 1963. The movie Selma vividly reminds us of African American hardships in 1965, as the rapper Common accurately stated in his new song “Glory”, “Selma’s now for every man.”
The film Selma tells the intriguing story of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s leading of 23,000 protesters to march 54 miles from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama. The goal of the three-part march was for blacks to practice their constitutional right to vote, one that was constantly denied by biased voting officials. As people of every race and state unite to fight against the unjust, institutionalized oppression imposed on black American citizens, this film conveys Martin Luther King’s inspirational story. Furthermore, this film depicts the many unrecognized social activists who although were brutally beaten by white supremacists, still found the resilience and courage to get back up and peacefully fight for the equal rights of their generation and those to come.
In the film, Dr. King and other social activists, such as James Bevel, Ralph Abernathy, and Diane Nash, arrive at Selma, Alabama. They strategically assess whether or not Selma is an effective platform to fight for their voting rights. When a white man violently punches Dr. King in the face at a local hotel in Selma, the activists declare that Selma is the perfect location to stand up for justice. Days later, King and his supporters, including the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, decide to march to Selma’s local courthouse. This event quickly escalates, when Annie Lee Cooper, played by Oprah Winfrey, hits an officer and is subsequently is viciously attacked by police officers.
It is undeniable that Dr. King and other social leaders faced many trials and tribulations. The FBI director at the time, J. Edgar Hoover, attempted to destroy the image of the King family by sending a recording of Dr. King having an affair with another woman to his wife, Coretta Scott King. The Kings also received countless death threats aimed at their children. On March 7th, 1965, the nation watched, on their television screens, “Bloody Sunday,” an event in which 600 non-violent marchers were severely beaten by police officers. Marchers’ blood was smeared across the cement of Edmund Pettus Bridge. Police officers repeatedly beat their batons and pipes on the black victims, who were already unconscious. Police officers, on horses, threw their leather whips across the victims’ backs. Many marchers obtained horrific wounds, such as broken spines, broken ribs, and many head injuries. After the second march, Reverend James Reeb, a white supporter from Boston, Massachusetts, was beaten to death by two white supremacists. The list of tragedies goes on and on.
The film accomplishes the admirable task of accurately portraying the indescribable resilience of Dr. King and his supporters. One would think that these leaders would have succumbed to the physical and mental brutality by ceasing the marches. However, they kept walking. They kept marching. They kept fighting for their freedom until justice was served to their people.
When I witnessed Milton Academy’s Wednesday assembly honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s legacy, I couldn’t help but be proud and grateful for the journey that my people and this nation have embarked on. I admired the assembly’s performers, who bravely spoke, sung, danced, and deeply felt the legacy of not only Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., but also those of the countless and nameless social activist legends. However, I must be frank and say that I was sadly disappointed that it seemed the only takeaway from this assembly was “Jared Murphy”, whose name was constantly texted in an exercise meant honor Dr. King and his sacrifices.
Nevertheless, having seen the film Selma three times and having witnessed the assembly, I have learned a valuable lesson that most people do not cherish in society. I believe that we, including myself, must grow thick skin and must see the world as our oyster. When I tell people that I’ve seen Selma three times, they automatically ask me if I walked out of the theatre with a sense of anger for what the nation had done to my people. My answer is no. I am not angry. I am only inspired to continue the fight for true equality. I remind myself that I cannot allow articles, tweets, and other hurtful comments to overtake my aspiration towards justice. I, along with many other young social advocates, must remind myself that Black Lives Matter has become a movement that will continue the work of the admirable legends, who sacrificed their lives, their blood, sweat, and tears towards making the world a better place for us to live in. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his followers did not give up on us, and we will not disappoint them. Every time I witness to the controversial discussions about Black Lives Matter and police brutality, I silently quote Dr. King’s quote: “Fear not, for we have come too far to turn back now… I have seen the promised land.” When I get weary and discouraged, I simply remind myself of the Jimmie Lee Jacksons, Emmett Tills, Malcolm Xs, Martin Luther Kings, Trayvon Martins, Aiyanna Joneses and all the other countless victims in our society. You should too.
Short URL: http://miltonmeasure.org/?p=6777