Selma: The Legacy You Must See & DuVernay’s MLK Day Message

January 19, 2015  |  

While protesters around the country continue to proclaim, “Black lives matter,” Ava DuVernay’s Golden Globe nominated Selma movie has hits theaters nationwide. The film, which recounts the story of BloodySunday in Selma, Alabama and the push to secure voting rights for Black Americans, is the first major motion picture about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the events of that tragic day.

Many have called Selma timely, considering the growing protests sweeping the nation and our country’s renewed conversation on race. But for DuVernay it’s a story that needed to be told.

“This story is a part of my family legacy, so there that was an entry point,” DuVernay told Los Angeles magazine. “Beyond that there’s not been a feature film made with Dr. King as the protagonist in 50 years. No narrative film in theaters with Dr. King as the center.”

Selma is not your typical biopic. The film does not cover the rise, and untimely demise of Dr. King, but rather highlights the push for equal rights that was ongoing throughout the South in the 1960s. In the film Dr. King is portrayed as a powerful speaker, negotiator, and impassioned leader, but he is also human. Unlike the demi-god we normally see on film, viewers get a glimpse of a man who is as vulnerable as he is powerful, and who questions his abilities and looks to others for advice.

Selma introduces viewers to a cast of Black activists who have, unfortunately, been erased from history. It also shows that the struggle for civil rights wasn’t that of just one man, but of many men and woman who faced daunting odds to secure their basic human freedoms.

While Selma’s powerful narrative should be enough to get you to the theater, here are 3 more reasons you should see the film.

#1 Correta Scott King isn’t relegated to the shadows

Far too often, when Correta Scott King is mentioned she’s seen as the long-suffering housewife who quietly supported her husband while he risked his life fighting for justice. However, Mrs. King was also an activist and one of her husband’s closest confidants. Mrs. King often traveled around giving speeches and working with other civil rights leaders. In Selma we get a glimpse of Mrs. King’s contributions, and enormous importance finally gets its due.

#2 The film shows the civil rights movement was a team effort

Most of us have learned about Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rosa Parks, but there are scores of other civil rights icons who never get mentioned in the history books. Selma makes it clear the journey to equal rights was the result of the work of many activists who gave their lives for the movement. In the film we see Andrew Young, Ralph Abernathy, Hosea Williams, James Bevel, John Lewis, CT Vivian, James Orange, and many more. While not everyone is given equal camera time, Selma makes it plain securing voting rights was a team effort.

#3 Women were an important part of the movement

 In addition to emphasizing the sacrifices and work of Coretta Scott King, Selma also highlights several female activists. The stories and voices of Diane Nash, Anne Lee Cooper, and Amelia Boynton were included in the film, which showed how integral Black women were to the movement.

Selma is a searing and necessary film that made me feel even prouder to be Black. It also reminded me that while we have come far as a nation, we still have a long way to go.

Watch Director Ava DuVernay’s MLK Day message below:

Have you seen Selma? What were your thoughts?

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