Thursday, January 8, 2015

Why I'm Seeing Selma This Weekend

“People fail to get along because they fear each other; they fear each other because they don't know each other; they don't know each other because they have not communicated with each other.” - Martin Luther King Jr.

Selma, the film that chronicles Martin Luther King's struggle to pass the Civil Rights Act through organized protests in Selma, Alabama hits theaters tomorrow. Holla! Can't wait to see it this weekend. I'm ready and have been ready since I saw the trailer back in early December of last year. 

This film is directed by Ava DuVernay, a journalist turned film director and the script was written by Paul Webb. Acto, who plays Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, signed on to take the role seven years ago. That's right, it took seven years for this film to get made. This film was made without the rights to King's speeches, which made the storytelling a bit of challenge, but from the critics I've listened to, a challenge that was capitalized on and met. There have already been murmurs of Oscar nominations. Kudos to DuVernay for her vision and the tenacity to get this film made and nationally distributed in theaters. 

I can't help but juxtapose this film to the recent protests regarding police conduct and abuse of power in many cities across our country. 51 years after the Civil Rights Act of 1964, people of color are still fighting for justice in America. Sadly, the vision and hopes Dr. King hoped for have not been fully realized in America. The fight for justice and progress has always been here and will always be here but the look and feel of it has changed. Racism, like everything else in our lives evolves and adapts.

As a person of color that has grown up in America and has seen and achieved many benefits in my own life, I can also say I've been exposed to racism and discrimination based on the color of my skin. I've been followed in stores, been called the n-word as recently as 2006, and when my mom moved to her current home back in 1993 I will never forget when I was followed by a police car as I walked to a friend's house. Mind you, I'm a Yankee, a black woman that grew up in the Connecticut valley. The police car followed me all the way to the door step and didn't turn around until I entered the house. I often wonder how the situation would have been different if I was a young black male walking to a friends house.

I'm not saying all cops are bad. They're not. However, I will say that I recognize a problem not only with law enforcement and our justice system, but how our society views black men in general. Since G.W. Griffiths film, "A Birth of a Nation," black men have had to struggle against stereotypes in the media that have given the public perception that they are savages and need to be feared by society. Are there black men who are no good and dangerous, yes, but the same can be said of men in general regardless of class, race, ethnicity, or religion.

For me, a real conversation on race needs to happen in America. The media has tried and failed and it's a part of the problem. 

We need to begin at the local level. We need to be accountable as individuals and recognize that America has many different faces and that class, zip code, and race will impact your experience for better or worse. White privilege is real. Money and wealth is also a privilege that can be a game changer despite race. America may be the land of opportunity but the scales aren't balanced. How we deal with our history will dictate how we move forward. 

Acknowledging the disastrous impact slavery and Jim Crow has had on the lives of black Americans and the legacy of these unfair and unjust practices in policies embedded in our public and private systems whether it be education, social services, the military or the criminal justice system needs to happen. The work ahead isn't easy but history tells us nothing worth achieving ever is. 

See Selma this weekend and then have a conversation about the film. Dialogue can lay the foundation for change.


shortstack2 said...

A: this is a wonderful, heartbreaking post. I admire you so much: you are always "in there " taking on problems head-on and always combining that with kindness and optimism.

happy New Year
love, Janie

Aaliyah Miller said...


Thanks for the kind words. I feel like I need to do more and my first step was this blog.

Judith Nutkis said...

Selma's director Ava DuVernay did a great interview with Terry Gross, yesterday.

Aaliyah Miller said...

Judith, thanks for the link. Looking forward to hearing it!

G Calvin Berry said...

It's great to see a woman of color have the courage to even touch this subject publicly. And not be ashamed of your heritage.

I was a young boy on April 4,1968 the day Dr. King was assassinated, and I remember my parents wept. The whole neighborhood wept. The world wept. Growing up in America as a black man has not been easy at times. But it has been better for me than my parents. I am glad this film "Selma" was made, and I hope the young people of this country pour into the theaters to see it. Racism is a disease that must be cured. Education gives hope.