James Jones column: Selma holds unique connection to Academy Awards

Published 10:09 am Thursday, March 14, 2024

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The city of Selma has a tie to an Academy Award-winning film. 

The movie “Selma” was nominated for two Oscar awards in 2015, Best Picture and Best Original Song. Singer John Legend and Common’s “Glory” won for Best Original Song. 

Not many mention Selma in the same category as the Oscars, but it is true. Selma and the Oscars go hand-in-hand,

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At the 97th Academy Awards next year, I believe “Selma” will be recognized for its 10th anniversary on March 10, 2025. A week earlier, we will celebrate the 60th annual Bridge Crossing Jubilee on Feb. 27, 2025.

Despite not winning best picture, “Selma ” made history at the award ceremony. It was the first film nominated for Best Picture with a black female director, Ava Duvernay.

I watch the Academy Awards every year. Common and Legend’s acceptance speeches were memorable. The Edmund Pettus Bridge was mentioned.

“John and I got to go to Selma and perform Glory on the same bridge that Dr. King and the people of the Civil Rights movement marched on 50 years ago,” Common said. “This bridge was once a landmark of a divided nation, but now it’s a symbol for change. The spirit of this bridge transforms race, gender, religion, sexual orientation and social status. The spirit of this bridge connects the kid from the South side of Chicago dreaming of a better life to those in France standing up for their freedom of expression, to the people in Hong Kong protesting for democracy. This bridge was built on hope, welded with compassion and elevated by love for all human beings.”

I also found Legend’s words just as powerful in his speech.

“We wrote this song for a film that was based on events that were 50 years ago, but we say that Selma is now because the struggle for justice is right now,” Legend said. “We know that the Voting Rights Act that they fought for 50 years ago is being compromised right now in this country today. We know that right now, the struggle for freedom and justice is real. We live in the most incarcerated country in the world. There are more Black men under correctional control today than were under slavery in 1850. When people are marching with our song, we want to tell you that we are with you, we see you, we love you, and march on.”

I was not upset that “Selma” lost Best Picture to “Birdman” because I am a big fan of actor Michael Keaton. Winning best original song means something to me, because Prince won for “Purple Rain.” I never get tired of watching that film and listening to the CD.

Selma being mentioned in the same breath as the Academy Awards is pretty cool.

James Jones is the Managing Editor of The Selma Times-Journal. He can be reached at 334-410-1716 or James.Jones@selmatimesjournal.com.