Oh the Glory of Selma!

The movie Selma is a must see. The theme song "Glory" by John Legend and Common is a must listen.

The movie Selma is a must see. The theme song “Glory” by John Legend and Common is a must listen.

I just returned from watching the movie Selma with my friend Petrea. Coincidentally we had agreed to read The Warmth of Other Suns about the great migration of Black Americans to the north and west to escape the violence of Jim Crow. Then we scheduled our girls night out to see Selma and we had an urgency to finish this terrific non-fiction book.

Isabel Wilkerson’s wonderful account of three individuals who amplified the experience of 6 million Americans fleeing an intolerable situation, sometimes leaving everything behind, to seek freedom and opportunity for a better life. They often met the same racism though less formal. It helped us understand the climate of fear that Black Americans in Selma faced as they asserted their right to vote.

I braced myself for what I thought might be more of history lecture and was wonderfully surprised by Selma‘s power as a story, beautifully photographed, and expertly acted by great actors. Selma was riveting. I had chills for the last third of the movie.

I recommend this movie even to people outside of the United States. Martin Luther King, Jr. is a model of leadership that should resonate with everyone.

The other sobering aspect are the echoes that still reverberate today. A defenseless young black man is shot by a state trooper in a restaurant. People are ridiculed for marching and “creating a civic disturbance.” It takes place in Alabama and we could not help notice the parallel with the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn ban on gay marriage in Alabama and the Alabama  Supreme Court Justice’s decision to defy the court’s decision.

It would be easy to shake our heads at those poor close-minded people in Alabama. Instead we tried to think of something we could do to make a difference for race relations and equality in Davis. We tend to be smug intellectuals who think we would never partake in anything so vulgar as what happened in Selma. But this is the town where a The Daily Show correspondent grew up and felt rejection because his family was from India. And where campus police sprayed mace directly into the eyes of student protesters. And where we never have our values tested, so we do not know if we have the courage of our convictions.

It was a Wednesday night so we did not expect a crowded theater. We had it all to ourselves. Go to the theater this weekend and see this powerful and important movie.

This blog post first appeared on Redesigning49.com.

The Truth Will Set You Free

This is weekend in the USA when we celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. for his contribution to our shared history. MLK quote It is lovely to have a holiday in honor of a man of faith whose courageous leadership is an inspiration. I’ve been rereading Scott Peck’s book The Road Less Traveled and his chapter “Dedication to Reality” struck a chord: “The third tool of discipline or technique of dealing with the pain of problem-solving, which must continually be employed if our lives are to be healthy and our spirits are to grow, is dedication to the truth. Superficially, this should be obvious. For truth is reality. That which is false is unreal. The more clearly we see the reality of the world, the better we are to deal with the world. The less clearly we see the reality of the world–the more our minds are befuddled by falsehood, misperceptions and illusions–the less able we will be to determine correct courses of action and make wise decisions. Our view of reality is like a map with which to negotiate the terrain of life. If the map is true and accurate, we will generally know how to get there. If the map is false and inaccurate, we generally will be lost.” (p 44)

Martin Luther King, Jr. provides an example of what is possible with a commitment in the truth’s reality. King’s life was cut short and yet I can imagine that he would have been among “a relative and fortunate few (who) continue until the moment of death exploring the mystery of reality, ever enlarging and refining and redefining their understanding of the world and what is true.” I want to be one of these few too.