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‘Fruitvale Station’

August 1, 2013

by Minister of Information JR Valrey

Before writing this review, I wanted to see Ryan Coogler’s “Fruitvale Station” a second time. The first time I saw this cinematic screenplay, as soon as the lights came on after the film, somebody yelled that Zimmerman had just been acquitted for the murder of Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida. The crowd was emotional from the movie, and after looking into the eyes of many of the young Black men who were flooding out of the Grand Lake Theater in Oakland, I knew without a doubt that downtown Oakland was going to feel the heat for the latest act of murder that law enforcement and vigilante types have initiated against Black existence in this country.

Michael B. Jordan as Oscar Grant, Ariana Neal as daughter Tatiana in 'Fruitvale'
Michael B. Jordan as Oscar Grant and Ariana Neal as his daughter, Tatiana, in “Fruitvale Station.”
I saw “Fruitvale Station” a second time, and overall I liked how the movie showed the life of a young Black Bay Area father trying hard to keep his life together. As a young Black man myself, I have had to deal with a number of the issues that Oscar Grant had to deal with, like losing your job and not wanting to tell your woman that you have to hustle up your end of the bills, and having to deal with ghetto politics where you might not be looking for trouble but trouble may be looking for you.

This was the most emotional part of the movie, because a lot of times when the plight of young Black men is captured for the silver screen, it either glamorizes a one-dimensional hard image or a one-dimensional soft Tyler Perry type of dude, when the reality in most cases rests somewhere in between the extremes.

One thing that I admired about the character of Oscar Grant was his unconquerable love for his daughter and family in general. It wasn’t one scene in particular, but throughout the whole movie, the closeness of the two of them really sets up the emotional drop when Oscar is murdered.

There are not a lot of films where young Black men, throughout all of our tribulations with the police, the streets and society’s stereotypes, are able to be seen as protectors and providers for their family. It is also important to mention that Oscar’s relationship with his daughter actually is a reflection of the loving, close relationship that he had with his mother throughout the film. It showed the world that young Black men do care about our families.

Now what I did not like about the film was how, dramatically, the movie started off depicting Oscar Grant as the most helpful guy in the whole world. He starts out getting his daughter to school and girlfriend to work, then goes to the store to buy his mother some crab for her birthday, then to the store to get a birthday card for his sister to give his mom – and all of this is believable.

Oscar Grant rally 3 boys 'I am Oscar Grant' Fruitvale BART 010709 by photographer, Indybay, web
One week after the BART police murder of Oscar Grant, three boys go to Fruitvale Station, the scene of the crime, to protest, clearly taking Oscar’s death – and Oscar as a symbol of their lives – to heart. The now immortal slogan, “I am Oscar Grant,” first appeared that day. – Photo: Indybay
Then he befriended a dog at a gas station who seconds later was hit by a car. He sat with the dog until the dog died. He proceeded to sell an ounce of weed to bring in some money because he lost his job.

Before he could sell it, he thought about his mother’s words to him in jail: She told Oscar that his daughter does not deserve the lifestyle that he was exposing her to. Oscar Grant then poured the $200-$300 of marijuana into the ocean, although he had no income. In my opinion, this was not believable.

I understand what writer and director Ryan Coogler was trying to do. He had less than an hour to make you identify with Oscar Grant, so all of these actions were part of the cinematic muse. I also would have liked to see police terrorism discussed in the movie, considering that Oscar Grant’s name was immortalized alongside this issue.

Overall, “Fruitvale Station” is a great movie that people should go see, especially young Black males, because it is our story and it is told in such a delicate way, where you realize there are no angels and demons. Oscar Grant, just like all of us, was a man with flaws, nevertheless a man who took care of his family.

Long live the spirit of Oscar, Lovell, Alan, Kenneth, Malcolm, Rahiem and the rest of the people who had their lives snuffed out in this genocidal war that is against Black life.

The People’s Minister of Information JR is associate editor of the Bay View, author of “Block Reportin’” and filmmaker of “Operation Small Axe” and “Block Reportin’ 101,” available, along with many more interviews, at www.blockreportradio.com. He also hosts two weekly shows on KPFA 94.1 FM and kpfa.org: The Morning Mix every Wednesday, 8-9 a.m., and The Block Report every other Friday night-Saturday morning, midnight-2 a.m. He can be reached at blockreportradio@gmail.com.

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