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Monday, January 19, 2015

Selma, the movie, spans murky waters of civil rights strategy

Photo of Selma's Director Ava DuVernay by Marie Maye at AFI Film Festival and SAG "BreakThrough" Filmmakers Party (Creative Commons)
"One crossing a river should expect to get wet," is an old Zulu proverb that can be related to the movie, Selma. In 1965, there were no reports of any civil rights marchers being pushed off the Edmund Pettus Bridge into the Alabama River, but fluids were tested. Blood, sweat, hate and restraint saturated marchers and police as they met on the bridge named after a former confederate general turned KKK Grand Dragon.  

Selma is based on civil rights strategies that led to voting rights for Afro Americans being enforced throughout the United States. It is a melodrama fabulously directed by California filmmaker Ava DuVernay and acted out by hundreds of present day thespians who embody the emotion and mood of that challenging time. 

Center stage is Martin Luther King, Jr. and his wife who he loving calls Corey. King is brilliantly played by 38 year old David Oyelowo, a British actor with family roots in Nigeria. At the 46th Commemorative Celebration of King's life held today in Atlanta, Ga., a tearful Oyelowo explained what it was like playing King. 

"What God starts, He will finish," he said of his prophetic dream that he would one day play MLK. Oyelowo does not discount prayer, fasting, and listening closely to The Almighty. "I know the voice of God," said Oyelowo who, like King, has four children. 

He said the mental anguish and murderous spaces King found himself in were almost unbearable. King's heavy burdens involved incredible pain, love of family, and realization that he was an ordained, moral child of the Most High. "There are no accidents with God." Oyelowo reminded today's revolutionaries they must not just spout words, but must act upon them.

Oyelowo said American slavery left scars on Blacks, but one must not let scars define one's humanity. "We must be in the center of our own narratives," he said, and like King, "Continue to speak truth to power."

Growing up in Alabama in the 1950's, I don't remember unrest in Selma as much as news reports from Birmingham, probably because I was more shocked at images of bombs,  fire hoses  and German Shepard dogs unleashed on protesters more than horses and billy clubs. Nevertheless, I had to see Selma, not because of its special effects, but the subject matter pulled me in. Almost immediately, I was stunned at the scene where four little girls were murdered in church.

What impressed me most was the project management being carried on by King and his advisors. I want to learn more about using non-violent protest strategies and build on them to combat racism, terrorism, sexism, classism, and ageism which continue to plague us. 

I wonder how many anti-black strategists are viewing the movie to become agents against civil rights. What holes in the movement would they be looking for to stall efforts proposed to end today's King-inspired movement?

Linkages between then and now... What is the next battle, and will it be on the silver screen?

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