With additional reporting by Josh Horowitz
The Twitter account for Millions March NYC, the group behind a December 13 rally in Gotham, had shared pictures of two stylish New York women. These were the activists responsible for the well-attended "day of resistance" meant to bring awareness to issues like police brutality in the wake of the shooting deaths of unarmed black men, including Michael Brown and Eric Garner. But why hadn't it occurred to me that this movement had a face besides these?
Well, probably because unlike the Civil Rights movement a half-century ago, resistance now feels like a group effort -- long on mass uprising and short on caped crusaders who swoop into American cities with super-heroic speeches and super powers. Still, in this post-Ferguson era, I couldn't help but wonder why we haven't generated an MLK for a new millennium. So when MTV News sat down with the cast of "Selma," which brilliantly recreates the historic voting-rights marches Martin Luther King Jr. led in Alabama in 1965, we asked them.
"When you look at Selma in 1965, it was really a 'person-led' movement," director Ava DuVernay observed. "People were following behind Dr. King, they were following behind Malcolm X. They're really these leaders who were galvanizing people's minds and hearts and they were getting them to act.
"Right now, we're in a people-led movement, not a person-led movement -- whether it's social media or what's moving around energetically right now. There isn't one person and," she added, "I don't think that's bad."
David Oyelowo, who doesn't just play King but embodies him in the film, echoed that sentiment and speculated that the tremendous weight on a single man or woman might actually be too much to carry.
"I think there's something beautiful about a people movement," Oyelowo said. "Selma, Dr. King, that movement laid a foundation and a groundwork that we can build on. ... Even by [King's] own admission I think, [the wish now] would be for it to be a people-led movement rather than all that pressure being on one man."
Rapper/actor Common, though, predicted the current moment -- and the movie opening on December 25 -- will be a catalyst for a new kind of leadership.
"This film definitely will spark something in someone to rise up and be like, 'I'm going to do great things,' said the "Glory" MC, who plays activist James Bevel onscreen. "But the true leader is going to be the people -- and the leader just will speak for the people."