'Selma' Stars March in Alabama to Send a Powerful Message for MLK Day

AP

Oprah Winfrey and fellow actors from the Oscar-nominated film Selma marched with hundreds in a tribute to Martin Luther King Jr. on Sunday, the Associated Press reports.

Winfrey walked arm in arm with Selma director Ava DuVernay and actor David Oyelowo, who played King in the movie. Their march through the streets of Selma, the site of King's famous voting rights march in 1965, was just one of many events around the nation honoring the slain civil rights leader ahead of the federal holiday Monday. 

Events surrounding this year's Martin Luther King Day come during a fragile moment in Americans race relations: Marching through the streets of the historic town, the Selma cast and crew sought to balance anger and optimism in the wake of recent incidents in which unarmed black men were killed by police.

Source: Rick Diamond/Getty Images
Source: Rick Diamond/Getty Images

In Ferguson, Missouri, the fatal shooting of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown by a white police officer caused weeks of violent protests; leaders of the black community demanded reforms to the criminal justice system in the name of equality. A Staten Island grand jury's decision not to indict a white police officer in the choking death of an unarmed black man, just weeks later, sparked ongoing protests in major cities across the country.

"We need to be outraged when local law enforcement and the justice system repeatedly allow young, unarmed black men to encounter police and then wind up dead with no consequences," Rep. William Clay, a St. Louis Democrat, told the Associated Press. "Not just in Ferguson, but over and over again across this country."

The somber nature of this year's Martin Luther King Day was captured in a recent New Yorker cover, which reminded readers that King's mission of equality is far from complete.

Source: The New Yorker
Source: The New Yorker

On Sunday, Winfrey praised the 1965 marchers for their courage in meeting fierce opposition on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma.

"Look at what they were able to do with so little, and look at how we now have so much," Winfrey told the Associated Press. "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."

The Illinois Daily Herald reported that "During Sunday's march in Selma, Common and John Legend performed their Oscar-nominated song 'Glory' from the film as marchers crested the top of the bridge as the sun set. Common had a part in the movie and said that song sought to show the link between the struggle of the past and today's injustices."

"We are the ones that can change the world," Common said afterward. "It is up to us, and it takes all us — black, white, Latino, Asian, Native American, whatever nationality or religious background. There is a certain togetherness that we've got to have." 

h/t Associated Press

Editor's Note: Feb. 25, 2015

An earlier version of this article failed to cite a passage from the Daily Herald in accordance with Mic editorial standards. The article has been updated to properly attribute the language to the Daily Herald.