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A letter to Ava DuVernay

'Selma' depicts women civil rights leaders as weak

By Jessika Ward | News Editor
On January 31, 2015

“Selma,” the film that depicted Martin Luther King Jr. as the leader of the Voting Rights Movement in Selma, Ala., has received a lot of positive feedback from critics and viewers.

However, I am the black sheep when it comes to my opinion on this film. The film does not realistically depict what happened during the Selma March, and the film’s director, Ava DuVernay, did not do enough research if she truly believed women played a minute role.  

Women who have made a positive impact in the United States and the world continue to be written out of history. Though “Selma” was inspiring, empowering and motivating, we must bring attention to the fact it truly only empowered black boys and men based off of its portrayal of black women.

Women cannot continue to be missing from history. When women create movies and write books that leave out our female counterparts, I will address it.

Dear Ms. DuVernay:

As a black woman, you should understand the struggle black women face to find their identity through history as black people, and then again, as black women. As black people, we have to dig up our significance from a grave called history, and once that happens, women are still lost in the dirt.

Although your film's characters depicted many civil rights leaders who were apart of the Selma Voting Rights Movement, you inaccurately portrayed Diane Nash and Coretta Scott-King as women who did not have a voice in the decisions that were made during this movement.

In my opinion, Coretta Scott-King was portrayed as a weak woman who was emotional about her husband’s affairs and not the civil rights leader she actually was. What does this say to young, black women?  

Diane Nash was the outspoken and articulate co-founder of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and an initiator of the Alabama Voting Rights Project who worked on the Selma Voting Rights Moment. Yet, the film portrays her as a pretty, well-dressed and quiet woman without an opinion. Again, I must ask what does this say to young women?

As a student activist, I was eager to see this movie and have followed its production it since last year. When I found out which civil rights leaders would be portrayed in the film, I was excited to see that Diane Nash was in the lineup. For once, there would be a movie that showed the impact a woman made. Needless to say, I was completely disappointed viewing the passive character created in your film.

We must make sure that black women of all ages understand the impact their female elders and ancestors made on this nation so that they fully understand the power they posses. They don’t have to stand in the shadow of their male counterparts, which also includes their boyfriends and husbands.

The next time you decide to depict a historical moment, I hope you choose to remember the impact that women made. If not for the tremendous impact and influence that black women had on this country throughout time, as you know, it would not have been possible for you as a black woman to create movies.

With warm regards,

Jessika

 

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