Some people who previewed Selma felt convicted for not voting, but promised to change.
I had arrived to the Ritz Carlton in Center City Philadelphia at around 4:30pm on Tuesday, December 16th, 2014, to interview Selma’s director, Ms. Ava Duvernay, who made history when she became the first African-American female to be nominated for a best director Golden Globe.
The interview took place an hour after my arrival, which provided much time for us journalists and bloggers who had previewed Selma weeks ago to strike up a conversation about the awe-inspiring film.
I wasn’t surprised when instead of discussing Selma’s spot-on casting and soundtrack, we dove into the issue of voting.
One African-American blogger mustered up the courage to admit they hadn’t voted in Philadelphia’s last election, but pledged to take the civic duty more seriously after watching the film and really understanding the struggle that it took to make the vote possible.
A similar declaration was made later that evening at a screening by a young African-American woman who was moved to tears by the film. She, too, acknowledged that taking the vote for granted was her proverbial vice.
Though only a few spoke up about their civic shortcomings, the reality is most people in America – and at least 70-80% of Philadelphians – consistently take the vote for granted when they don’t show up to the polls on Election Day.
But what if everyone who watched Selma when it opens nationwide this Friday had the same feeling of remorse for not engaging the system as the two individuals I mentioned in this article? Could that guilt be transferred into meaningful action on Election Day?
I think it could, but there would need to be thoughtful systems of outreach to accompany both the film and its viewers.
For example, what if activists and/or candidates running for office were coordinated nationwide to register patrons as they excited the theaters? What if ushers handed out voter registrations cards along with Selma ticket stubs? Sure the latter may be a little far fetched, but then again, impossible is a matter of opinion.
And in my opinion, nothing is impossible, not even a 90-100% voter turnout rate; it’s all a matter of relevance, presentation, perception and place.
The majority of people I come in contact with care about their neighborhood and the issues, but they aren’t inspired to act in their civic duty because the candidates and the presentation of the subject matter aren’t inspiring.
Many who’ve I expressed this to push back by saying “voting isn’t suppose to be fun, entertaining or inspiring.” I wholeheartedly disagree, which is why in September of 2014 I co-organized Drum Duel®, a drum competition (and voter registration drive) where the winner was decided by ballot.
When millions of people vote for American Idol or thousands stand in line for the release of the iPhone, it’s because the product is made relevant to their interest, presented to them in a way which inspires action, perceived to have tremendous value and is in a place that is engaging.
In my opinion, Selma triggers on all those points, which is why when I see it for the third time this Saturday before presenting on a panel related to the film, I’ll make sure to have voter registration cards for anyone who may feel convicted for not voting and thus is inspired to change themselves and the world.
Thanks for reading. Until next time, I’m Flood the Drummer® & I’m Drumming for JUSTICE!™
Photo: Kodak Views/Flickr