After a screening at The Nickelodeon theater on Main Street Sunday evening, 18-year-old Lynard Jamison walked out with a new perspective on voting.
Jamison said when he was 16 or 17, voting seemed a waste of time. But after seeing “Selma,” voting became serious.
“I learned a lot about the struggle that African-Americans went through about going to get voting rights and getting equal rights for blacks in the United States,” Jamison said.
Jamison wasn’t the only teenager who turned out to see the movie based on the Selma to Montgomery marches, which were a decisive victory for African-Americans in the late 1960s in the fight for civil rights.
Mayor Steve Benjamin, along with other community leaders, reserved the 5:30 p.m. Sunday screening for nearly 100 African-American youths and their parents and church leaders to watch Martin Luther King Jr.’s march on the big screen.
Jamison said that as more young African-Americans get a chance to see the movie, they will be inspired to go vote like he did in the November elections. “My mom was nagging me about how much I needed to go vote, go vote, go vote. All day,” Jamison said. “It was nice, simple, easy. It didn’t take any time out of my day. Most of my peers just sat in a room all day.”
TeErica Lewis brought her two sons, 13-year-old Cameron James and 12-year-old Crosby James, because she believed it was an opportunity to educate her sons that the right to vote is something they shouldn’t take for granted.
“It’s not something that we earned just because they thought we should have that right,” Lewis said. “It instills that voting and the right to vote is something that African-Americans fought long and hard for four decades ago.”
Local community leaders helping to co-sponsor the private viewing came out and sat alongside the younger crowd to see the film.
Aaron Bishop, a Richland 1 school board member, said he was overwhelmed to see so many kids watching a movie on a street in Columbia where African-Americans were once not allowed to walk freely.
“This is something that is totally amazing, because on a street that once didn’t allow people who were a different color to walk this street, we are here at The Nickelodeon theater on the same street watching ‘Selma,’ ” Bishop said. “We hope that social action will come out of this and people to come out to vote, getting people involved in politics at a later stage of their life as well as being responsible to their community.”
Following the screenings last weekend, talk-back sessions were held to discuss how voting fits into today’s culture. Bud Ferillo, director of the film “Corridor of Shame,” was joined by others from the community to share their thoughts on how voting has become polarized between white-Republican and black-Democratic voting districts.
Richland County Councilman Paul Livingston said he believes the screening will let young African-Americans see what they were molded from. “It creates the enthusiasm among them to say voting is important and to look at what folks really went through to give us the doctrine to vote,” Livingston said. “I’m sure that part of what’s going to be learned is how easy it is to make change when you step out and try to make a difference.”