I finally got the opportunity to see the movie that provoked public outrage towards this year’s Oscars: Selma. To be honest, I was not that enthused about seeing it, for reasons that stem from my pubescent years that surround Black History Month and report, after report on the life and death of civil rights leader, Martin Luther King. From the sixth grade all the way I’d say to my junior year in high school, I could have sworn that Martin Luther King J.R. was the only black man in the history of black people that had done anything for blacks. I mean, good lord, after writing so many reports and being forced to present the same findings in an endless cycle of monotony one can not help but understand why Selma did not excite me. And, not to mention upon first glance of the previews, it just seemed like another opportunity for Oprah to promote her greatness, selfishly overshadowing the actor who played MLK J.R.., and claiming every film accolade available to add to her list of virtually unachievable accomplishments.
But none of that was the case.
The movie is powerful. I cannot give a play by play account of every scene (I will leave that to the critics), but I was pulled in immediately in the opening scene, recounting the tragic story of a church bombing that killed four innocent little black girls, that triggered a series of events that would later go down in history. Selma is not only the focal point in the strategic fight against the harsh voter restrictions that prevented blacks from exercising their right to vote; it is also the turning point in MLK’s personal struggles between himself and his wife, and the internal conflicts that he often faced in the quiet moments when he was alone.
Personally, whoever is responsible for writing the screenplay is an absolute genius. In order to portray the true character of the leader whose “I Have A Dream” speech is recognized as one of the greatest speeches in American history; and whose face is the ultimate representation of civil rights, choosing to not begin the movie at the moment of his birth but rather on a period in history where tensions between blacks and whites had reached a boiling point…pure brilliance. The tone of the movie was heady…I could feel the burdens, the weight of, the extremity of the harshness that my own grandparents had to face in a country that sang songs of freedom and equality-but only for the freedoms and equalities of whites. It was as if I myself was walking with King on his journey. I could feel his grief, his frustrations, and the pride even in the smallest of victories.
I cried. My heart bled for those who were beaten, murdered, and convicted unfairly and for what?
Selma is the representation of strategic brilliance. The march that was led, leading up to Selma had been nothing more than a means to provoke the media into forcing even the president himself to take a long hard look at what had been taking place in the south for decades; to understand the cruelty of the Jim Crow laws and to force white Americans to question their own morality. I loved it.
But I loved Coretta’s strength more. Behind every great man is an awesome woman, and while many hailed her husband for his greatness, she stood by his side despite his flaws, often making a heavier a heavier sacrifice for the sake of his image, for the marriage. Coretta proved herself to be in my opinion much more formidable than her husband; there were moments when he looked to her for strength because the weight of the world had taken its toll on him, and even in the midst of her own pain, she managed to lift him up so that he could continue being the man that the world around them needed.
In short, Oprah, Lee Daniels, Brad Pitt and every actor that contributed to the film deserves every ounce of praise and recognition the world could muster. Selma is not only a teacher of black history, it is a reminder that the memories of one of darkest periods in American history is no longer the responsibility of those who lived it; it now belongs to the generations that have followed behind it, and benefitted from its trials and triumphs-many of which we have all taken for granted. It is a reminder that black men are not the monsters that or the depraved savages that has become a self fulfilling prophecy that many of them are living up to. It is a reminder that there is still much more work to do in the fight to keep MLK’s dream alive; that what was fought for should never be taken for granted-lives were lost, and each life spared was not done in vain.
And it all began in Selma.