by Sean Smith
The much anticipated historical drama Selma opens in movie theaters across the country this weekend. The film chronicles the fight led by Martin Luther King Jr. for equal voting rights and centers on the historical march he led from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama in 1965. The film is directed by Ava DuVernay, who is best known for directing the 2012 independent film Middle of Nowhere, and boasts a star-studded cast. The role of Martin Luther King Jr. is played by David Oyelowo, who you may recall played the role of Louis Gaines masterfully in Lee Daniels’ The Butler. Other notable cast members in Selma include Cuba Gooding Jr., Martin Sheen, Oprah Winfrey, and Common to name just a few. Selma has already garnered four Golden Globe nominations and is expected to compete for a number of other major awards as well.
As moviegoers stream into theaters this weekend to see Selma, they may be under the perception that they are going to watch a film which strictly deals with themes from the past. Issues that were at one time a problem in our country, but are no longer. However, as far as we as a society have come when it comes to race relations in this country, sadly this is not the case. This week the news media has been covering the terrorist attacks that occurred in Paris, France with non-stop coverage. And while that story is without a doubt newsworthy, another possible terrorist attack has gone largely unreported. On Tuesday a pipe bomb exploded in front of the Colorado Springs, Colorado regional office for the NAACP. Thankfully no one was injured or killed in the explosion, but the incident is very much reminiscent of similar incidents that occurred in the South during the Civil Rights Era. Bombings were a favorite tactic of individuals and organizations that were trying to fight against the struggle for racial equality in the 1960s. A prime example of this being the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham, Alabama in 1963.
The first song featured on the soundtrack for the movie Selma highlights the notion that the struggle for racial equality did not come to a happy ending when the MLK led Selma March concluded, or when the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was finally signed into law. The song is titled “Glory” and is by John Legend and Chicago emcee Common, who as previously mentioned is a featured actor in the film. In the second verse of the song John Legend relays the sentiment that the battle against injustice is still going on by crooning “Now the war is not over, Victory isn’t won, And we’ll fight on to the finish, Then when it’s all done, We’ll cry glory, oh glory”. On the first verse of the song Common makes a connection from the struggle for equality in the 1960s to similar issues in the present day by rapping “Resistance is us, That’s why Rosa sat on the bus, That’s why we walk through Ferguson with our hands up, When it go down we woman and man up, They say, ‘Stay down’ and we stand up”. He is of course making referencing to the death of Mike Brown in Ferguson, Missouri this past August. An incident that set off a wave of protests across the nation over the feelings of perceived injustice felt by many in the minority community in regards to how law enforcement officers deal with citizens of color.
If you haven’t yet heard “Glory” by Common and John Legend you can do so below. I personally find the song to be quite refreshing, especially given the current climate of today’s popular music; which is largely self-absorbed and fails to address in large part the many relevant social issues of the day. You can also check out the entire Selma soundtrack, which was released earlier this week. Other than the Common and John Legend track “Glory”, the soundtrack is largely made up of music from the time period of the film. It includes Otis Redding’s “Ole Man Trouble”, J.B. Lenoir’s “Alabama Blues”, and The Impressions classic “Keep On Pushing”. The compilation also features three selections from the film’s score by Jazz musician, Jason Moran.
If you are planning on seeing the film Selma this weekend, please keep this one thought in mind. While we as a country have progressed leaps and bounds from where we once were in regards to race relations in our society, we still have not attained the “glory” described in the Common and John Legend track. As is made evident by the recent bombing of an NAACP office earlier this week in Colorado.
Common And John Legend
From Selma Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Pathe Productions/Harpo Films/Paramount Pictures/Artium/Def Jam Recordings
Selma (Trailer 2 Featuring “Glory by Common And John Legend)
Pathe Productions/Harpo Films/Paramount Pictures