I can’t remember the last time I anticipated seeing a movie as I anticipated seeing Selma. With so much going on in the world, Selma, though a reminder of America’s long racist history, is a breath of fresh air. As a black history buff, I studied the Selma Movement for years, so much of its content was of no surprise. Selma is more than about history, it is perfect timing. Watching it, I thought about the marches that are taking place all across America to protest racial profiling of young black men and unfair police practices. Selma further validates my belief that successful movements go no further than the people who are being disenfranchised, ignored, and brutalized.
While Dr. King’s role in the Selma Movement is the backdrop of the movie and denotes the importance of a central figure, I was more intrigued by the perseverance of those who lived in Selma everyday; having had to endure the constant terror of their white counterparts. Though I already knew the stories of Jimmie Lee Jackson and that of Northerner Viola Liuzzo, I shamefully admit I did not know the stories of Amelia Boynton (Robinson) and Annie Lee Cooper. I knew there were three marches and was aware of “Bloody Sunday”, but the inclusion of these two women in the story greatly moved me. Selma is a powerful reminder of American history, not African-American history alone. While it doesn’t attempt to cast its characters, King and President Johnson included, in a light of sainthood, it does validate that leadership is difficult, sacrificial, and costly.
I plan to see Selma again. I have to. From the time I sat down in my seat to the moment I left the theater room, it had my undivided attention. I talked about it for two days. It had me thinking and appreciating who I am and where I came from.
As I watched the film, I could not help but think about Daddy’s old Civil Rights Movement comrade, Bob Mants. Mants died in 2011 and I wonder what he would say about the film. He was with John Lewis on the Edmund Pettis Bridge when Bloody Sunday occurred. A tall, lanky young man in high water pants. Watching Selma, I kept thinking about all the times I had spent with Bob Mants and never once asked him what it was like– that bloody Sunday. My heart beats with regret.
For me, the most poignant moment in the film was an interaction between Coretta King and Amelia Boynton. Coretta was about to meet with Malcolm X and felt she wasn’t prepared.
Amelia Boynton reminded Coretta she had been prepared by the ancestors. She took Coretta on a history journey, from Africa to America, and she declared that the blood of the ancestors pumps in her. Wow, Ava Duvernay got me! That one scene did it for me. That encounter. Those words. Selma gives life to what most of us have only read in history books. We see our Freedom Fighters. We hear them. We touch them.