In the midst of controversy, Selma was snubbed for major awards at the Golden Globes, though Common and John Legend delivered powerful speeches about the film when they accepted the Golden Globe for Best Original Song.
In the days leading up to the Golden Globe Awards, media headlines were set ablaze critiquing the movie Selma for what some believed was an historically inaccurate portrayal of former president Lyndon B. Johnson.
While many other historically inspired films have been filled with inaccuracies without garnering as much fuss, Selma was under fire ever since Johnson’s former domestic affairs chief Joseph A. Califano Jr. wrote an article for the Washington Post accusing the film of being dishonest in its portrayal of Johnson.
It isn’t clear if that controversy was what caused the Golden Globe hopeful to be snubbed in numerous categories, including Best Drama, but its one victory of the night allowed Common and John Legend to sound off about the important message behind the powerful film.
Common and John Legend took home the award for Best Original Song for “Glory.”
While some people were busy going tit for tat about LBJ’s portrayal in the film, Common took the time to remind the elite audience at the Golden Globes what the real focus on the film should be.
After thanking God and the Hollywood Foreign Press, Common went on to explain how working on Selma changed him for the better.
“The first day I stepped on the set of ‘Selma,’ I began to feel like this was bigger than a movie,” Common said as he accepted the coveted award. “As I got to know the people of the Civil Rights movement, I realize I am the hopeful Black woman who was denied her right to vote. I am the caring white supporter killed on the front lines of freedom. I am the unarmed Black kid who maybe needed a hand, but instead was given a bullet. I am the two fallen police officers murdered in the line of duty.”
The comments were clear references to some of the most important news stories that have broken over the last few months.
From the death of unarmed teen Michael Brown who was fatally shot by Ferguson, Missouri, police officer Darren Wilson, to the two New York police officers who were fatally shot execution style by Ismaaiyl Brinsley, Common’s speech aimed to address the rising tensions between the races in America and the need to come together harmoniously to reach real solutions.
“ ‘Selma’ has awakened my humanity, and I thank you, Ava,” Common continued, giving thanks to the film’s director, Ava DuVernay. “Ava, you are a superhero. You used the art to elevate us all and bring us together.”
He thanked many more people including Oprah Winfrey for what she does “for the people from the past and creating for the future.”
John Legend gave a shorter speech, saying he was “honored” for being given the opportunity to work on the song alongside Common and is hopeful that the song will serve as “inspiration” for those “fighting for justice right now.”
During an interview backstage, Common expanded on his comments and his decision to connect with the fallen police officers as well as the countless slain unarmed Black men in America.
“That opened my mind up obviously getting to see what happens right now in present day you see people coming from different backgrounds, no matter what color, they want justice and humanity,” Common said, according to The Source. “They care for the individual whether it is a young Black kid or Latino or Asian or Jewish or white person, it’s all love. Basically the expansion is basically saying we all have to do this together. We have to come to an understanding and respect each other. I know it sounds basic and simple and repeated but when put into practice it works.”