Friday, January 9, 2015

SELMA: the movie

I often go to the movies alone. I enjoy having a solitary experience in a theater, not feeling a need to discuss what I’ve seen with anyone else. Last night I went by myself to see “Selma”. Although I met friends there who had also come on this first night of the screening in Dallas, I was essentially having a typical movie viewing experience, watching a story unfold on that big screen, a story I knew well because of my family’s involvement in the Civil Rights Movement. I knew this story so nothing about it came as a surprise. What I was seeing was a compressed but no less effective recount of a period of the Movement that was violently bloody, nerve-wracking, pivotal and historic. But somehow, even knowing the narrative and how it would play out didn’t minimize the emotional response it evoked. From the first scene of the 16th Street Baptist Street Church bombing to the brutal attacks on the peacefully assembled marchers on that “Bloody Sunday”, Ava DuVernay never let’s us forget that this was a war we Black people were in, a war against racism, one that would ultimately leave many casualties, a war that persists. I am not going to do a review of the film here because I am not objective about this movie. As a Black woman who grew up with the Civil Rights Movement as a daily part of her life, I can’t be objective. I am a cheerleader for Black filmmakers who tell our story and tell it honestly and this story captured everything important we need to know about the complexity of the times, the people involved in the movement, and the politicians who factored into its success and/or demise. What I am going to do is relate my reaction to “Selma” because even I couldn’t have predicted it. I was numb at the close of the film, numb because I was once again reminded as the tags went up describing who some of the major characters were and what they went on to do, that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was only 36 years old at the time this film is depicting and James Bevel and John Lewis were in their twenties. King constantly referred to John Lewis and James Forman as youngsters but the reality is, he was himself a youngster. I can say that as a 64 year old woman who thinks of 36 as our Next Gen group. I got exactly one block from the Angelika when the sobbing began. I couldn’t stop myself. I sobbed all the way back to my house where I called my baby sister Roberta who had, just a few weeks prior, called me in the same state of distress after the Eric Garner decision came down, and I wailed uncontrollably until she talked me back to calmness. All I could think about as the tears began to flow was my parents, and my uncle Ted who committed suicide after his stint in Selma, and my grandparents and all those people I so admired who worked tirelessly fighting racial injustice in this country. I cried because I realize we are in a very bad place in America, we who believe in freedom, we who believe in justice. America has sunk back into its putrid history only now so many of our young people have no understanding of how dangerous this reversion is to their future. The government-sanctioned murders of Black people today are no different than the murders of innocent marchers by Sheriff Jim Clark or Bull Connor in the 60s. The rolling back of all the legislation aimed at securing voting rights for Black people tells me that we haven’t “stayed woke”; we haven’t drilled into our kids heads as it was drilled into mine that you never take your eye off the prize because the moment you do, the evil carny worker aka white supremacist will steal it back from you. I hope that every young Black person sees this film so they can understand that you never give up your vote, no matter how bleak the situation looks, because one thing they should realize is white supremacists would not be working so hard to deprive you of your vote if it was just a meaningless gesture! Young people, as you organize around issues of police brutality, recognize that all these systems are tied together, all meant to cement the future of white supremacy. You can’t separate them so they must all be attacked. As Dr. King explains to John Lewis about the non-violent strategy, it’s a multi-layered approach that must be employed at all times and sometimes that’s at the risk of your life. We who believe in freedom cannot rest until it comes. A luta continua…

3 comments:

tierney malone said...

Bravo,Dr.Meeks well said. Keep on Pushing.

Charley Moon said...

Brilliant!

David Herman said...

Thank you for that Vicki, your words always tow the line for me.