January 13, 2015

A Word From Pastor Tanner-

Selma Movie Review

Selma is not a film for the faint of heart. It is a painful, vivid reminder of racism run rampant; racism that results in lack of dignity, lack of freedom, squelching of the human spirit, and sanctioned murder. But, is it also a powerful, hope-filled reminder of the struggle for freedom, the struggle for justice, and the triumph of humanity over hatred.

In Selma, Hollywood finally rose to the challenge of portraying Martin Luther King, Jr., a man worthy of the acclaim history has given him, but also a man with his own foibles, struggles and support networks to help him through. The complexities of this very human hero come through in the movie. King’s powerful role as the mouth piece of the movement is inspiring, but perhaps even more so is the cadre of activists constantly surrounding him, deep in thoughtful discussion, using laughter to relieve tensions, working out together the best strategies for resistance. King is never a lone wolf. He is the preacher, the articulator of the dream, but the dreaming, the debate, the passion, the power he possesses, belong to the unsung heroes of the movement and the movie. In Selma, King is rightfully portrayed not at the hero of the civil rights movement, but as a symbol of the heroic community behind the movement.

Before the movie started, I spent a few minutes remembering a conversation I had with Dick Jones, a member of Lakeshore who, as a young pastor, went to Selma to march and work on voter registration with SNCC. As the movie unfolded, it provided a visual context for his eyewitness accounts. I felt myself anticipating the story, wondering if the Hollywood version would get things right. Sure enough, as the story unfolded, it matched the details Dick relayed to me, with his own experiences represented through the multitude of white clergy who flocked to Selma to be part of the protests. Dick spoke with awe in his voice as he told of King’s unusual actions during the march; a similar awe came through the voice of the white clergy character in the movie, defending King’s decisions. I cannot speak for all the historic details of the movie, but it was moving to see the authenticity with which the eyewitness account I had been given matched the storyline of a small character interacting with a larger than life story.

Selma is not your typical “feel good” movie of good driving out evil. It is a clear moment in time, the narrowing in on one episode of a much larger struggle. It is inspirational and filled with hope. But it is also aspirational. It presents an ongoing struggle that does not end because people don’t like it. It reveals the magnitude of hate and the need to keep vigilant against the growth of such hatred. It is a disturbing reminder that there is more work to be done, and silently praying for and end to inequality will not bring it about. Selma leaves you asking the question, what is my role in the struggles for justice and freedom, in the episodes that intersect with my life – and what sacrifices am I willing to make to be part of the next triumph of humanity.

I encourage you to see the movie for yourself, and be inspired to stand for justice in your own story.

Announcements

Jewelle Taylor Gibbs will be reading from, discussing and signing copies of her recently published book “Destiny’s Child: Memoirs of a Preacher’s Daughter,” this Sunday at 3:00 in the Family Room.  Copies of the book will be on sale for $20.00.