Golden Globe Nominee David Oyelowo Compares ‘Selma’ to Ferguson

By Jamilah King Jan 09, 2015

It’s awards season in Hollywood and "Selma" is rightfully on a lot of people’s radar. At this year’s Golden Globes the film stands to win big, with nominations in four categories including Best Motion Picture–Drama. David Oyelowo, who stars as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.,is nominated for Best Actor in a Motion Picture. 

Along with director Ava DuVernay, Britian-born Oyelowo is one of several black actors who belong to Blackout for Human Rights, the loosely knit network of high-profile and ordinary people who campaign against police killings of unarmed black people.

On this past Thanksgiving, Blackout called for a nationwide boycott of America’s busiest shopping day of the year, Black Friday, to show the might of the African-American dollar. It’s nearly impossible to measure how much of the group’s efforts contributed to the 11 percent drop in the day’s sales, but they clearly demonstrated how some of today’s leading black filmmakers and actors refuse separate their art from their politics.

When asked if he had any hesitation in joining Blackout, Oyelowo called "Selma" incredibly "evocative of Ferguson." Here’s more:

"It’s not exactly the same situation, but the parallels are very stark and real. Jimmie Lee Jackson was one of the motivating elements within the Selma campaign that really galvanized that campaign. He [was] shot by law enforcement unjustly, unarmed, brutally, in a public setting. And there was no recompense for those who did this. There’s that, but also what you see in "Selma" is the use of strategy, the use of coming together and forcing people to act out in front of cameras, forcing them to show their true colors when the press aren’t present. That’s what brought attention to Selma and ended up in a very efficacious way, bringing about change."

The actor continued by saying that the film presented "non-violence and [love] as means of shaming people who are hell-bent on injustice to take a look in the mirror." Hopefully, said Oweyelo, "Selma" will encourage people to "use love as a force and use strategy as opposed to bitterness."

In a recent interview with Variety’s chief film critic Justin Chang, DuVernay, Oyelowo and Oprah Winfrey, who plays activist Amelia Boynton, praised the film’s "divine timing." When it came to playing one of history’s most compelling characters, Oyelowo said in another interview that he "felt this bizarre feeling of death around me."

He continued: "[MLK] had consistently been told not to make that speech as there was a real fear of possible assassination. At the end of the day I felt almost surprised that I would be alive. I know that sounds strange, but I feel like I had so deeply entrenched myself that I could feel some of the fears he must have felt."