Martin Luther King Jr. Day is always on the third Monday of January. (I think that’s so federal organizations don’t have to close in the middle of the week.) This year it fell exactly on his birthday, January fifteenth, which made it even more perfect when we watched Selma that day for my school’s movie club (or film club, if you want to sound more proper).
Selma is about Martin Luther King leading people in a fight for civil rights. The movie culminates with the huge march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama and President Lyndon Johnson signing the Voting Rights act. Wow, that’s quite a few three letter name abbreviations from that time period: MLK, LBJ, JFK.
It was the club’s first ever meeting. If I remember correctly, a total of ten kids (which is 2% of my entire high school’s student body: I would say that’s an okay turnout for an event at school on a day off. Well, except that the three juniors had come for extra credit. Minus them, that would be 1.4%) and five teachers showed up. Four of them teach history/English (the subjects are combined at my school), and the fifth one was the lone physics teacher. It was a small, awesome gathering.
The movie was really good. It forced me to remember that people have gone through and are going through so much for their rights. I forget that all the time.
Here are some of the scenes that have stuck with me.
- In the beginning, it showed the bombing of Sixteenth Street Baptist Church. While watching the historical event play out on the screen, I was a bit shocked to realize that I had actually been there.
- In one scene, a lady played by Oprah Winfrey went to register to vote. She was sitting there quietly when the white man working there rudely called her up to the window. The woman walked up, slowly, and gave him her paperwork. But, instead of approving it, he made her do ridiculous stuff. He told her to recite the preamble, which she did. He asked her how many judges there were in Alabama, which she answered correctly. Then he told her to name them, all sixty-six (I think) of them. When she didn’t respond, he rejected her registration papers.
- Multiple times throughout the movie, King visited the White House. I had no idea how much he and Lyndon B. Johnson communicated. The president even called him. Every one of their interactions were all centered around MLK trying to get Johnson to act and the president trying to get King to stop rocking the nation.
- This last scene I’m going to talk about happened after MLK and his friend were thrown in jail after a protest. They’re in a cell so dark that you can’t really see them. I, as someone who knows nothing about cinematography, thought it was a brilliant shot. But that’s besides the point.
The point is, in that scene, King was unsure. He doubted his decisions that led so many people into certain danger. He was uncertain whether all the pain was leading somewhere or if it was ever going to pay off. Martin Luther King Jr. was anxious and worried. This man who accomplished so much didn’t know exactly what he was doing either. This humongous champion of the civil rights moment lost faith at times too.
After the movie, we ate pizza (it was delicious) and talked about it (it was amazing). There were two points we discussed that hit me harder than the rest.
- The first thing was about the question “what would I have done?” and “would I have been brave enough to stand up for my beliefs?” One teacher talked about how she always asks herself that and hopes that the answer would be “yes, yes I would,” but you just don’t really know. What she said next was something I’ve never thought about before.
In her beautiful voice, she spoke about how she has realized that while she wouldn’t have been on the opposing side, she could’ve been the mother with three kids who didn’t go because she had her own load of problems to worry about. She might not have gone because she was too busy.
She talked about you have to decide which hills you think are worth dying on and then to go and defend them. This led her to touch on how she was going to the pro-life march that Saturday because it was one of her hills. That got my attention. Afterwards, I asked her about it, and she very kindly gave me the details. She also said it would be a good, safe first march to go to and that it would mostly be a bunch of Catholic nuns because it has been the Catholics who have been fighting hard against abortion since the beginning.
I then brought it up over dinner. My dad was open to it, but my mom immediately didn’t want to go. She does not like protests of any shape of form. So, my dad said no, we weren’t going to a march just yet. He told me to give my mom some time. When I saw the teacher who gave me the idea at school later that week, I told her of my dad’s decision. She said that was very respectful of him, and even though I wish we had gone, I agree.
However, if all goes well, I will be attending the march next year.
- At one point in the movie, MLK came home and his wife, Coretta, was upset at him. They had this intense conversation. She asked him whether he had loved any of them, and after a very, very long pause, he responds no.
What I thought was going on was that people were falsely telling her that he was being unfaithful in order to destroy their relationship, but when that scene was brought up as we were eating, another teacher explained that yes, Martin Luther King Jr. had many affairs. That shocked me and still does.
MLK, this absolute hero, was imperfect. He had flaws, and major ones. Which, duh, of course he did, but I’ve never seen them mentioned before until now.
In conclusion, the first movie club meeting was awesome.
Wow, talk about a change of plans. This was supposed to be a post made up of three little stories but that did not happen. Have you ever marched in a protest or want to? Oh yea, that reminds me! The police officers didn’t let the people continue their march to Montgomery with the excuse that their peaceful assembly was unlawful, which makes no sense at all. Did you know about MLK’s affairs? Now I’m curious about other historical heroes too.