A local art space called Real Art Ways screens independent films on a weekly basis. Since the covid pandemic they have closed their auditorium. Fortunately last week they offered a new service, an ability to buy a $12 ticket and then stream a new documentary at home. Half of the money went to support Real Art Ways and the other half to the film makers and screening platform. Last Tuesday night we settled down and watched the film.
My husband, three years younger than I, had been living in Alabama in 1965, the year of the Selma, Alabama to Montgomery, Alabama peaceful march to demand equal voting rights. He was 15 and knew little of what was going on with civil rights in his region. I was 18, though, and living thousands of miles away in the North in Oregon I was deeply aware of the struggles going on in the deep South. So we brought very different experiences to the footage from that time. For me it was an instant return to watching television in 1965 and being grief stricken. While the grief was the same for him, he had not experienced the images until years later and didn’t have that same shock of memory I had.
Both of us, however, had long been aware of John Lewis and his constant work for voting rights and were engrossed by the film. By the time the movie was released Lewis had been arrested 45 times but had also served for 33 years as a Congressional Representative from Georgia. He had constantly been involved in what he calls “good trouble.”
Whether you remember, as I did, the actual events in 1965 or came to learn of them later, the film supplies excellent context for the viewer. Millions were denied the right to vote and thousands worked to give them that right. As portions of the United States continue to try to find ways to disenfranchise qualified voters, it is a jarring reminder of how long people have had to fight for a democratic right. Watch it and strengthen your courage no matter the challenge where you live. Right now the world could use a little more “good trouble.”