SELMA": A Fitting Gift To America And Dr. King 



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In the lead -- David Oyelowo as Dr. King

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m no movie critic. However, “Selma” is one of the best motion pictures I’ve seen in a long time. Have you seen it? If so, you know what I’m talking about. If not, why not? “Selma” is that rarest of films: brutally honest yet undeniably beautiful, depressing yet uplifting, heart-wrenching yet thought-provoking.

If and when you see “Selma”, you will feel then as I do now. Two primary questions will haunt you during and after your time in the theater: How dare they; and, how dare we?

The pronoun "they" refers to everyone who willingly and deliberately did their part in establishing and maintaining the plague upon society that was slavery. Slavery gave way to the Jim Crowe protocols of segregation and nullification. Segregation gave way to integration. Integration gave way to whatever you choose to call the twilight zone America is currently in.

Just don’t call it the post-racial era.

That would be an insult of the highest order. How can you effectively bring clarity to a problem without first acknowledging that problem? How can you actually bring resolution to a wrong without first discussing said wrong? The more things change, the more they stay the same. America needed to talk about race relations in 1965. In 2015, America still needs to talk about race relations.

“Selma” is both a flashpoint and an icebreaker. This film stars David Oyelowo as the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Carmen Ejogo as Coretta Scott King, Tim Roth as Alabama Governor George Wallace, Tom Wilkerson as President Lyndon B. Johnson, and Oprah Winfrey as Annie Lee Cooper. It was directed by Ava DuVernay. “Selma’s” synopsis – courtesy of IMDb.com – is as follows: The unforgettable true story chronicles the tumultuous three-month period in 1965, when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. led a dangerous campaign to secure equal voting rights in the face of violent opposition. The epic march from Selma to Montgomery culminated in President Johnson signing the Voting Rights Act of 1965, one of the most significant victories for the civil rights movement.

Black Americans still have not overcome.

Friends, 50 years is a blink of an eye in historical terms. 50 years ago, Black people in the Deep South were suffering to ensure that their children and their children’s children could vote.

They also suffered to give themselves and their descendants the right to register to vote. If you somehow forgot the countless beatings, lynchings, and assassinations suffered by people both famous and obscure, go see “Selma.” If you’ve managed to marginalize the fact that Americans were bludgeoned with high pressure water hoses, trained police dogs, and police batons for merely attempting to peacefully protest for their rights as citizens of this nation, go see “Selma.”

If you’ve deluded yourself into thinking that racism is over simply because Barack Obama is our first Black President – please go see “Selma” immediately. “Selma” will show you a clear cut reference of the price Reverend King himself had to pay for leading that noble effort for justice and liberty.

It would ultimately cost him his life, a fact of which he was fully aware. In daring to engage in boycotts, marches, rallies, and all other forms of non-violent displays of civil disobedience in Selma, people there were killed or arrested or assaulted or intimidated by the police. By people, I mean Black people and white people, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, Republicans and Democrats, clergymen and congregants, Southerners and Northerners, young and old – Americans all.

The police were carrying out the marching orders of Alabama Governor George Wallace. The honorable George Corley Wallace, Jr. was a proud Democrat/Dixiecrat.

How dare they? In 1965, American people of all races, backgrounds, walks of life, and socioeconomic levels saw a wrong and resolved to make it right – even if it cost them their lives or their freedom. As a direct result, President Johnson (D-TX) fought to get the 1965 Civil Rights Act through Congress – which ensured the voting rights of all Americans. Since then, all Southern states unfailingly vote Republican.

How dare we? In 2015, far too many Americans ignore the blood, sweat, and treasure spent by so many in the past to ensure their right to vote by choosing not to vote. This choice is both callous and cowardly.

How dare they? In 2013, the United States Supreme Court struck down Section 4 of the 1965 Civil Rights Act. Any state in our union can arbitrarily obstruct its citizens’ access to the ballot box with impunity. How dare we?

Where are our rallies, marches, and non-violent protests today?

How dare they? Since 2013, Congress has done absolutely nothing to ensure voting rights for all Americans. How dare we? We steadfastly refuse to hold our elected leaders accountable.

Our Congressmen and Senators won’t watch “Selma.” Will you?

On Thursday, “Selma” received a Best Picture nomination from the Academy Awards. When will America nominate itself as best nation? Those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it. How dare we?

Happy birthday, Dr. King. And thank you.

 

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