Blog on SELMA Movie as an Elderly Black Man Sees It

This post is in response to Dean LeAnn Snow Flesher’s essay on SELMA.


Lyndon Baines Johnson called us Niggers to our face if we were white house employees. Read how Fannie Lou Hamer, a share cropper of the Mississippi Freedom Party, refused to allow him to disgrace her. GOOGLE THE STORY. See the movie The Butler. It is hard for even the liberals to see a strong free thinking black male like Dr. King say no to the president of the country, whom is a political deal maker of political expediency rather than an ethicist with a respect for intrinsic human values.  THE MORAL BANKRUPCTY OF GOVERNMENT epitomized in the a-morality of the FBI is true elephant blindness for those who are in denial of epistemological blindness of racism that legalized white supremacy using the white church and the oppressive white Jesus, and the anthropological arguments of white biological superiority taught in prestigious universities.

The refusal of the recognized scholars of academic privilege who control what is acceptable and unacceptable to avoid mentioning the rich uniqueness of the black church as a paradigm for community organizing. Neither the white missionary efforts nor the liberal white theological academy taught black people effective community organizing or radical theological reflection. These preachers were the children of black religion pioneers such as Nat Turner, Denmark Vesey, Gabriel Prosser, Sojourner Truth, Harriett Tubman, Ida B. Wells, Fannie Lou Hamer, and many others whose names dis-appear on the syllabi of prestigious ATS professors. These unknown black spiritual predecessors of Selma forged a faith rooted in a fervent black worship tradition of preaching, praying, and singing that produced leadership in Selma, Memphis, and Montgomery.

Selma is only an eye opener for blind people touching a different part of the elephant by the narrow parameters of their social location by reminding them that humanity is a greater universalism than white exclusivism of manifest destiny and exceptionalism. When people like Pastor James Reeb were savagely bloodied, and beaten to death, followed by other white people of all faiths and good will, then and only after the shedding of precious white blood for black lives that mattered were the blind folds temporally lifted from the oligarchy: the power intoxicated and greedy, immoral power brokers who buy elections and reluctantly change public policy practice. I WRITE FROM THE RELATIVITY OF REFLECTION AND LIFE.

Dr. J Alfred Smith, Sr.
Pastor Emeritus, Allen Temple Baptist Church
Professor Emeritus, American Baptist Seminary of the West

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3 thoughts on “Blog on SELMA Movie as an Elderly Black Man Sees It

  1. Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.
    – Dietrich Bonhoeffer

    I am very proud of ABSW and her professors for coming out of their slumber, with vigor and attempting to describe the elephant in the room. Yes it can be said that it is about time; but we welcome you all to the dialog and engagement. So lead us in the dialog about an examination White Supremacy. Let’s examine White Privilege. Let’s examine Rogue Policing! Let’s examine all Liberation Theologies and Womanism! Let’s hear from the margins and learn, meditate and reflect. Let’s discover what to say that will build community with those who are in denial, ignorance and hatred, and who must accept what to be and what not to be? In that vein, Dean Lean Flesher writes,

    “It is no accident that I have picked an elephant for this imagery, because the elephant in the room related to our critique of SELMA is the atrocities that have been meted out to African American citizens throughout their tenure in the land we now call The USA. In particular, the atrocities meted out during the march to the Pettus Bridge in SELMA Alabama; the violence meted out by state troopers in response to the initial very well organized, orderly, and non-violent march toward Montgomery. To view the blatant brutality administered by the troopers against the unarmed ‘Negroes’ was very difficult for me to watch.”

    This isn’t news to the African American Community, we understand the difficulty in observing these atrocities, however, it is not difficult for us to make a hermeneutical application to today’s Rogue Police brutality meted out upon the Black bodies of Michael Brown, Eric Gardner, Tamir Rice, Dionte Greene, Aiyana Jones, Miriam Carey, Malissa Williams, Tarika Wilson…(and the list can go on and on). Nevertheless, the real tragedy is that the difficulty in observing theses atrocities allows many in society to remain blind and insouciant to them and the victims.
    These historical and contemporary atrocities maybe news to a segment of society, which is privileged and retrieves their information from propaganda organs like Fox News. Conversely, if Dr. Lean Flesher, Rev. Jim Hopkins and Dr. Jennifer Davidson gets that “Black Lives Matter”, then with their help, is it possible that others can also, who have never had the luxury and blessing of hearing a preached justice sermon by Dr. J. Alfred Smith Sr., Dr. James Cone, or attended a Samuel D. Proctor conference? Dr. J. Alfred Smith writes,

    THE MORAL BANKRUPCTY OF GOVERNMENT epitomized in the a-morality of the FBI is true elephant blindness for those who are in denial of epistemological blindness of racism that legalized white supremacy using the white church and the oppressive white Jesus, and the anthropological arguments of white biological superiority taught in prestigious universities.

    The refusal of the recognized scholars of academic privilege who control what is acceptable and unacceptable to avoid mentioning the rich uniqueness of the black church as a paradigm for community organizing. Neither the white missionary efforts nor the liberal white theological academy taught black people effective community organizing or radical theological reflection. These preachers were the children of black religion pioneers such as Nat Turner, Denmark Vesey, Gabriel Prosser, Sojourner Truth, Harriett Tubman, Ida B. Wells, Fannie Lou Hamer, and many others whose names dis-appear on the syllabi of prestigious ATS professors. These unknown black spiritual predecessors of Selma forged a faith rooted in a fervent black worship tradition of preaching, praying, and singing that produced leadership in Selma, Memphis, and Montgomery.”

    This is so true! It is elephant blindness to not see that people denied, abused and murdered are in need of modern day White rescue heroes (even if it was a President) to loose the unfailing courage of Holy Ghost within them. It is elephant blindness not to understand the power of phenomenological strength that Samson possessed when he said, “Let me die with the Philistines!” Or that what Esther possessed, when she said, “I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And If I perish, I perish.” Or that what Perpetua possessed when she told her father that “Nor can I call myself by any other name than that of Christian.” Or the Spiritual phenomenon that occurred on the day after Bloody Sunday, so beautifully depicted in the movie “Selma.”

    On the day after Bloody Sunday, Dr. King has led the marchers back to the scene of the violent carnage, a day earlier, at the hands of Sheriff Jim Clark’s Rogue Police deputies. Sheriff Clark’s deputies are blocking the Pettus Bridge, but surprisingly they shift their line up to the side of the bridge, opening up the path for Dr. King and the marchers. Dr. King, who has led the marcher to the top of the bridge, observes this shift and then decides to kneel down and pray. The marchers follow his lead and they all began to pray on their knees. Dr. King gets up from praying then turns around and walks in the opposite direction – refusing to cross the Pettus Bridge. The marchers are stunned, but they follow Dr. King’s lead off the Pettus Bridge. What Happened? Was Dr. King afraid? Was it the power of the Holy Spirit that directed Dr. King, during his prayer, to turn around. In turning around, Dr. King is faced with hyper-criticism from young John Lewis and James Farmer. Nevertheless, Dr. King had the courage to follow the Spirit of God.

    If President Johnson, who allegedly, it is claimed was directing the events, why would Dr. King have to turn around? Is it possibly because there were saboteurs lying in wait to ambush the marchers down the road away from the Bridge? Only God knows, but God does hear and act.

    The source of the direction of the Civil Rights Movement and the source of the “Black Lives Matter” movement is the Holy Spirit. Therefore, as Dean Flesher implies it is a distraction in an attempt to maintain the status quo and discredit the heroic accomplishments of African American for African American and thereby all Americans.

    Thank you ABSW Professors for lending your spirituality, intellectualism and prayers to this struggle. Thank you for putting your body on the line. Lastly, as you all will agree, we walk by faith and not by sight . . . elephant or otherwise.

    Reginald Lyles,
    ABSW, MCL
    Police Captain Ret.

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