It’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, and “American Sniper” is topping “Selma” to be the No.1 movie in America. Yes, there’s irony there, but it’s also a good time to talk a bit about pop culture and the philosophy of nonviolence.
Gawker has a great article reprinting a long 1965 interview King once gave to Playboy and Alex Haley (who would go on to write “Roots” and “The Autobiography of Malcolm X”). King’s comments on music leaped out at me. I’m gearing up to read from my novel “Game World” at various schools for African American history month, so King’s words about the power of culture have fresh resonance.
“In a sense, songs are the soul of a movement,” King says in the article. He adds “Since slavery, the Negro has sung throughout his struggle in America. Steal Away and Go Down, Moses were the songs of faith and inspiration which were sung on the plantations. For the same reasons the slaves sang, Negroes today sing freedom songs, for we, too, are in bondage. We sing out our determination that ‘We shall overcome, black and white together, we shall overcome someday.'”
“Selma,” which tells the story of King and the 1965 march he led from Selma to Montgomery, was mostly shut out at this year’s Oscar nominations. All twenty of this year’s Oscar acting nominees are white, and there are no women nominated for writing or directing (“Selma” director Ava DuVernay, who had been widely expected to become the first African-American woman to be in the running for best director, was shut out). “Selma” notched just two Oscar nominations, one for best picture–and another for best song.
This weekend, “American Sniper” pulled in an estimated $89.5 million, while “Selma” took in $8.8 million according to the tracking website Box Office Mojo. Perhaps the best way for people to celebrate the rest of MLK day would be to actually go see “Selma.”
Here I am talking about the “Selma” snub on MSNBC: