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Selma Hand in Hand

by Rev. David Braneky
Baptist Church of West Chester

On January 7th 2015, at the invitation of Rev. Dr. Wayne E. Croft, Sr., pastor of St. Paul’s Baptist Church, West Chester, members of the Baptist Church of West Chester and First Baptist Church of Kennett Square joined with members of St. Paul’s Baptist Church to view the film Selma at a local movie theater as part of #SELMAHandinHand. This opportunity to view the film together arose after Dr. Croft had been contacted by Mr. Joshua DuBois, the former head of the Office of Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships in the Executive Office of the United States President, who asked if he could get at least 100 people to preview Selma before its January 9th nationwide opening. Mr. DuBois was able to get Paramount Pictures to reserve a theater at AMC Painter’s Crossing 9. Due to interest on the part of church members of the three churches, a second theater was reserved as well.   

Following the movie screening on the 7th, St. Paul’s Baptist Church hosted a community forum the following week, January 14th, to discuss the themes of reconciliation and race relations that are depicted in the film. Individuals had an opportunity to share their answers to the following questions: How did the film impact you? What were some of the most triumphant moments in the film? What were some of the toughest? What did you learn? Discussion of the film’s themes then served as a springboard to discussing the current state of race relations and movement towards racial and social justice in West Chester and Chester County. Community leaders, such as West Chester Mayor Carolyn Comitta, Chester County Commissioner Terence Farrell, Superintendent of West Chester School District, Dr. James R. Scanlon, Young Adult Ministry member of St. Paul’s, Jasmin Thomas, local pastors and other community leaders served on a panel. Questions for the panel included:

  • What can we learn from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and others in this movement as we are facing our own “Selma” in our communities?
  • How does our community handle the issues of racial injustice?
  • Who are we engaging in the discussions within our communities? Are we building a broad coalition of stakeholders and community members in our work?
  • What is needed to achieve racial justice in our community?
  • How are we engaging inter-generationally with leaders both young and old to do this work?

As a result of these two events, existing relationships among people have been strengthened and new relationships have been started. One immediate result of our time together was to pay for high school students to see the movie and host a discussion with them. Additional steps will be taken to follow up these experiences as we seek to walk hand in hand in our pursuit towards racial, social and economic justice for all people in West Chester and the greater Chester County Community.


For more information, contact: Rev. David A. Braneky, Pastor Baptist Church of West Chester.

Also see the BPFNA ~ Bautistas por la Paz Selma discussion guide.


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