SELMA Yesterday and Today

SELMA Yesterday and Today
Jordan Brown, Student Contributor

Jordan Brown, Student Contributor

The #BlackLivesMatter movement means a lot to me and after seeing the film Selma, my heart was heavy from witnessing what happened in real life 50 years ago. In 2015, some of the exact same things that happened are recurring today and it is truly sickening to me that the madness has not been tamed. On Sunday, the 11th of January, I saw the movie Selma. It premiered nationwide on Friday January 9th.

My first reaction to the movie was it is excellent. The first scene Martin Luther King Jr. engaging in a nervous conversation with his wife Coretta Scott King before accepting the Nobel Peace Prize. The next scene takes you to the 16th Street Birmingham Church. Four little girls are dressed in their “Sunday’s best” and chatting about Coretta Scott King’s hairstyle and how they think she does it. One girl mentions that her mother says it is too grown for her age. Three of the girls continue down the stairs and the fourth girl stops and says, “I know how she did it. She parted it down the middle…” BOOM! A loud bomb blast. The blast kills her and the other girls. I gasped loudly in the theater, covered my mouth, and cried. This was the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, the capital of Alabama. It was September 15, 1963 and the third bombing in 11 days. The bombing happens within the first ten minutes of the film. It is this kind of captivating impact that takes viewers watching Selma into the movie, making you truly feel as though you are there.

Selma Movie Poster

Selma Movie Poster

Martin Luther King Jr. (MLK), played by David Oyelowo, and the rest of the leaders of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) were headed towards Selma, Alabama to protest to change the current voting laws. MLK talks to President Lyndon Johnson, who took office after Kennedy’s assassination. President Johnson, played by Tom Wilkinson, asks King, “can’t we just hold off a bit? I want to discuss other issues like poverty, that’s a hot topic right now.” King would not accept non-action: “We have our rights, but they can’t be used freely in the community.” This is because even though segregation was legally over, racial prejudices still ruled the south.

Oprah Winfrey played civil rights activist Annie Lee Cooper who is shown attempting to register to vote for her second or third time, only to be asked questions she could not answer like reciting the names of the 68 county judges. Cooper, the historical figure, was also known for punching Sheriff Jim Clark in the face at a protest in Selma.

This is a parallel of things that are happening today, like the number of Blacks killed by law enforcement and the resurgence of hate crimes throughout the United States. The pain and oppression continues: 18-year-old Michael Brown was unarmed and killed by Ferguson, Missouri police officer Darren Wilson. Wilson is a free man and gained $500,000 from a support fund. A grand jury did not indict him for the killing. There is also Eric Garner who was killed by police in New York. He was strangled to death for allegedly selling untucked cigarettes, even though that is not a crime punishable by death. The police officer that killed Garner put him in an illegal chokehold. Garner’s entire execution was caught on tape as he told the officers that he could not breathe 11 times and he had asthma but the police officer didn’t stop. The officer did not go to prison and as in the case of Wilson, he was not indicted.

There are so many parallels from Selma in 1965 to now 2015. During this year’s Golden Globe awards, Selma did win for best original song; it is a phenomenal film and doesn’t need any awards for us to recognize this movie for the greatness it achieves. See Selma, I strongly encourage everyone. Remember Martin Luther King Jr. Day is the 19th of this month.

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