‘Selma to Snohomish’ begins with movie ‘Selma’

“Selma” is more than a movie. It’s more than a history lesson. The film is an unflinching look at the price people paid — in this country and in my lifetime — to exercise their right to vote. Seeing the courage that required in the ugly face of racism and brutality, it’s baffling why more of us don’t vote today.

“Young people have no idea what people went through to get the right to vote,” said Janice Greene, president of the NAACP Snohomish County Branch.

Greene will be part of a panel discussion following a free showing of “Selma” at 1:30 p.m. Saturday in the Northwest Music Hall, a former movie theater at Everett Mall.

Saturday’s program will launch a civic engagement series, “Selma to Snohomish,” sponsored by the NAACP Snohomish County Chapter, the Communities of Color Coalition, Families of Color United in Service, the League of Education Voters, and the Latino Community Fund of Washington. The event is supported by the Hazel Miller Foundation.

“The voting rate is pretty lackluster. Really our purpose is to re-enfranchise voters,” said Louis Harris, a spokesman and political action chairman of the local NAACP. “We want to bring people together, invigorate youth and educate the community. We have a big vision for all people in Washington state, really, to vote — no matter your race, your creed or beliefs.”

When I saw “Selma”, in 2014, I remembered seeing TV news coverage of the 1965 voting rights marches from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama. I was in fifth grade then. I remember, and yet what the movie so powerfully shows is still unbelievable.

Greene and Harris said recent events around the country — police shootings of African American suspects, debates and demonstrations over equal justice, and the murders of nine worshippers at an African Methodist Episcopal church — have made the message of “Selma” a timely starting point for a community discussion.

“We think this is an education moment, not only for young people across the country but also for adults,” said Greene, who will be joined on the panel by state Rep. Luis Moscoso, a Mountlake Terrace Democrat; Dexter Gordon, a professor of African-American studies and communications at the University of Puget Sound; and others.

Along with heading the local NAACP, Greene was sworn in recently as first vice president of the Alaska Oregon Washington State Area Conference of the NAACP.

Daniel VanArsdale, who lives in south Snohomish County, is founder of Families of Color United in Service, a group trying to boost community involvement. He is also involved with the League of Education Voters, which works to support quality education for all in Washington.

“What we want to do first and foremost is bring people to the table,” VanArsdale said. “Youth were instrumental in Selma, they kind of put things in motion.”

VanArsdale and Harris said a second “Selma to Snohomish” event is planned for 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Oct. 24 at the Everett School District administration building. “It’s a community training focused on youth. It’s open to everybody to get involved,” Harris said.

On “The Selma to Snohomish Civic Engagement” Facebook page, Harris wrote: “How many people do you know who don’t vote? I know far too many, which is why this event is so powerful.”

The 27-year-old Harris said the movie helped him see history differently. “People weren’t just fighting to feel like they were equal. They were fighting to have the same rights as everybody else,” he said. “It wasn’t just Martin Luther King, but the people in Selma who wanted to be able to vote. They were beaten and put in jail.”

VanArsdale said what happened in Alabama 50 years ago is “a part of American history pertinent to what is happening today.”

“We’re not telling anyone how to vote or what to do,” he said. “But voting is a right. It’s the cornerstone of our democracy.”

Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; jmuhlstein@heraldnet.com.

See ‘Selma’

“Selma,” the 2014 film based on the 1965 voting rights marches from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, will be shown at a free event 1:30-4 p.m. Saturday at the Northwest Music Hall, inside the Everett Mall at 1402 Everett Mall Way. The movie will be followed by a panel discussion and refreshments. For information or to reserve a seat for this free event: www.brownpapertickets.com/event/2251783

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