Moments into the Golden Globe nominated film, Selma, it’s clear that audiences are about to witness a masterful, chilling and massively important account in our nation’s historical tapestry. Directed by Ava DuVernay, who may become the first African American woman to win a Golden Globe— and possibly an Academy Award— for helming a major feature film, Selma is a stoic reminder of the a small town’s struggle pain for the basic voting rights, and the persistence of those who lead peaceful protests met with inhumane violence.
The generation who only read about the Civil Rights movement in textbooks has seen history repeat itself in 2014, with images of a burning Ferguson, Mo. and Black Lives Matters signs marching though Manhattan. Selma brings to life a clear parallel between civil unrest in the wake of intolerable police brutality. As the world looks on and again says, enough is enough.
Selma opens in theaters nationwide Jan. 8. Until its official release, here are five ways the film inspires today’s new civil rights battle.
1. It takes young people to make the changes.
Although Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. seems like a larger than life figure from the pages of our textbooks, the leader was only 36 years old in March 1969, when the march from Selma to Montgomery took place. U.S. Rep. Jon Lewis was only 25 years old when he joined the fight. Just as young people in Ferguson, Mo. took to the streets to protest the killing of unarmed Black teen Michael Brown, the front lines of history are filled with the faces and voices of the youth.
Ferguson, Mo.- Nov. 29, 2014
Montgomery- March 1, 1965
2. The revolution gains momentum when it’s televised.
Mike Brown’s death was a primarily local story in Ferguson on August 9. But after nights of protests and violent clashes with the St. Louis police department dominated livestreams and network television. Tear gas and employing military style weapons were enough to make the nation take notice in 1965 and 2014 alike.
Ferguson- Aug. 13, 2014
Selma- March 1, 1965
3. Black, White, or otherwise…
Dr. King led on the principles of civil disobedience, nonviolence and unity. Through his message of working alongside fellow Americans, “Black, White, or otherwise,” he believed that real change would come. As seen in Selma, people from all nationalities and creeds joined in peaceful protest across New York City to express their outrage over the death of unarmed Staten Island man, Eric Garner, whose choking death was caught on video July 17, 2014. His killer, NYPD officer Daniel Pantoleo, was not indicted for his death.
New York City- Dec. 4, 2014
Selma, March 1965
4. One death can spark a national movement.
Trayvon Martin, Mike Brown and Eric Garner aren’t alive to see the civil unrest sparked by their deaths. Those beaten and killed on Bloody Sunday in Selma, probably couldn’t imagine that one day the right to vote would be a basic and undeniable right their families now barely second guess. The civil disobedience witnessed in Selma gave precedent to today’s “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” movements, as well as the die-ins staged on the streets of Ferguson, as well as in iconic NYC landmarks like Grand Central Terminal, Apple Store Fifth Ave. and Macy’s at Herald Square.
Die-in at NYC’s Grand Central Terminal- Dec. 3, 2014
Sit-ins in Selma- March 1, 1965
5. The reminder that we stand on the shoulders of giants.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and all those who marched fearlessly alongside him in Selma in 1965 changed our nation for the better. Thanks to Selma, their legacies have been immortalized on the big screen for generations to follow in their greatness.