David Oyelowo, Oprah and Ava DuVernay lead marches across Selma on Martin Luther King Day

Almost 50 years ago, a charismatic man led thousands of people on a march from Selma to Montgomery to fight for equal voting rights for African Americans. At the height of the civil rights movement, that momentous walk put a halt to the injustices meted out to African Americans and ushered in a new dawn in racial equality.

47 years after his death, Martin Luther King Jr’s teachings and what he stood for still resonates in 20th century America. The recent rise in killings of unarmed black youths by white policemen has sparked outrage and protests that have brought back memories of a time when black people were treated unjustly in a predominantly white society, and many have drawn parallels between MLK’s fight and the challenges facing young black youths in America today.

On the eve of Martin Luther King Day, actors who recreated the role of King in ‘Selma’, a film about how the inspirational leader successfully campaigned for equal rights for black people during the Selma to Montgomery march, joined thousands of protesters to mark the landmark event.

In a significant show of solidarity, David Oyelowo who played King in the movie, Oprah Winfrey, the movie’s producer, Ava DuVernay, who directed the film and rapper Common marched with protesters in Alabama on Sunday to mark Martin Luther King day.

As they marched towards the Edmund Pettus bridge where protesters were tear gassed and beaten in 1965, Oprah told the crowd that ‘every single person in that march was a hero’. She also urged the crowd to remember “Martin Luther King as an idea, Selma as an idea and what can happen with strategy, with discipline and with love.”

Martin Luther King Jr. 1929-1968

Martin Luther King Jr. 1929-1968

“The idea is that hope and possibility is real,” she continued.
“Look at what they were able to do with so little, and look at how we now have so much. If they could do that, imagine what now can be accomplished with the opportunity through social media and connection, the opportunity through understanding that absolutely we are more alike than we are different.”
Across the US, there were tributes and rallies organised to mark the day as African Americans drew from the teachings of King to call for racial equality against a backdrop of police brutality against black people.

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