Andrew Young: The miracle of Selma

Story highlights

  • Andrew Young: The movement for voting rights achieved a miracle, depicted in the film "Selma"
  • He says peaceful protesters worked with politicians to gain justice
Editor's note: Andrew Young, former mayor of Atlanta and U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, worked closely with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. during the civil rights movement and became executive director of the Southern Christian Leadership Council. He is chair of the Andrew J. Young Foundation. The opinions expressed in this commentary are his.

(CNN)Looking only at the historic, social and political facts, you will miss the spiritual phenomenon that enabled us to come together to change the South and the nation in 1965.

MLK, LBJ, SNCC, SCLC, NAACP, churches, synagogues, universities, trade unions, United Nations, federal courts, FBI and even Congress came together in spite of historic conflicts and differences to create one of the greatest occasions in the history of our nation.
Andrew Young
That's miraculous.
    This complex story has evolved into a visual psalm of spiritual power that leads us to the truths of democracy that defy, but also reveal, the ultimate power that occasionally breaks into our lives and lifts us to new cultural heights.
    This is Selma the movement and "Selma" the movie.
    Oprah Winfrey and Ava DuVernay, with a team of brilliant, but mostly little-known actors and artists, attempted to tell this story in Hollywood. They condensed years into minutes -- with great success.
    Very few of the personalities, their families or their institutions will like this phenomenal effort, for it does not give them the credit or the recognition to which they feel entitled. We often get lost in the trees and miss the forest, and its life-saving grandeur and beauty.
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    The opening scenes of "Selma" shocked me into a spiritual realm with the sudden explosion in the midst of four beautiful, laughing little girls in Sunday school at the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama. That scene put me on an emotional roller coaster ride that reminded me that whatever success I have enjoyed was because of the sacrifice and suffering of others: from Medgar Evers, James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner, to Jimmie Lee Jackson, James Reeb, and Viola Liuzzo. We are what we are because others risked and gave their lives to redeem our world from the evils of racism, war and poverty.
    The movie "Selma" has been years in the making. Many have tried. But most have given up because of the difficulties of accommodating so many constituencies, patents, property rights and the complex ego structure of our society. I'm pleased that did not happen with this film.
    When you see "Selma" for yourself -- and you must -- look for the miraculous transformation of America. Without violence. With very little money. And with only our faith in the creator as our source of power. "Selma" is a cinematic tribute to the democratic vision that we can live together in freedom without violence.
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    Fifty years later, the challenge is global as well as local. Now we must learn to address the economic crisis of unemployed poor and under-employed workers.
    Just as the answers 50 years ago revolved around voting, today's issues revolve around jobs, the economy, gender, culture, religion and healing. But now, we know that we can. Because of the miracle of Selma in 1965 and today as a film in 2015, we can bear witness and embrace the powerful belief that we shall overcome. ‎