Art Theater hosts discussion panel after Selma screening


Illinois State Rep. Carol Ammons, D-103, expresses her thoughts on the significance of the movie Selma at The Art Theater in Champaign on Monday.

By Andrew Nowak

A screening at the Art Theater Co-op of the Oscar-nominated movie Selma was followed by a panel discussion on reactions to the film and current civil rights issues.

Illinois State Rep. Carol Ammons, D-103, was one of four community members to speak at the event held on Monday night.

The panel also included Imani Bazzell, a member of Family Advocacy of Champaign County, Erik McDuffie, an African American studies professor and Senia Hernandez, a Centennial high school student.

“(Selma) reaffirmed the reason why I make sure that my children learn history,” Ammons said. “Because they are responsible for making sure we don’t repeat it.”

Ammons has been to Selma, Alabama and said she marched in reenactments of the walk from Selma to Montgomery. She encouraged community members to join her on a trip this March to celebrate the 50th anniversary walk in Selma.

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McDuffie said Selma was currently the best movie that depicted the civil rights movement. The screening was the second time in 48 hours that he had watched Selma, and he was reluctant to see the film again due to the emotional intensity of some scenes.

“That opening scene where you see those four little girls being blown up is, for me, an incredibly painful scene,” McDuffie said. “I have two young children and to think what those families and those communities and those lives lost … For me, I was just crying.”

Bazzell also said that the bombing scene was particularly strong and well done by the director, Ava DuVernay, who Bazzell believes should have received more recognition.

However, the panel was also quick to criticize parts of the film.

Several panelists pointed to how little attention and dialogue was given to the women of the civil rights movement, although they recognized that the film showed that side of the movement more than other films.

Bazzell said it was important to remember that Selma is just a slice of civil rights history, keeping in mind that a lot of other important moments have occurred.

The theater will hold a free screening of Selma on Wednesday at 8 p.m for University students who show their I-Card. The event will be sponsored by the Bruce Nesbitt African American Cultural Center.

The panel also connected the issues featured in the movie to current civil rights issues, such as the events in Ferguson, Missouri and other parts of the country.

“We all have a responsibility,” Ammons said. “We all do. And if we’re silent, then that silence gives consent. And so even if you may have not been there yourself, can you see your own complicity in today’s human rights violations?”

Andrew can be reached at [email protected].