We all had to leave work early the day that a jury released the verdict for Johannes Mehserle for the shooting of Oscar Grant. Many businesses across downtown and uptown Oakland all decided to have their employees go home before the announcement since protests were expected in Oakland, depending on the verdict.
We all emptied out of our respected workplaces. I had a class in San Francisco so I just took a BART train out of Oakland out of there but for some people who had to drive, they had to exercise a bit of patience as it took them quite a while to get out of the city due to the traffic jam that erupted from the mass exodus.
I sat in a coffee shop in San Francisco before my class started, wishing I was sitting in front of a TV so I can watch the news. Instead, I sat there using the internet on my phone while my phone battery seemed to deplete a bit faster than normal to try to find out what the verdict was the moment it was announced.
I considered it a huge moment and I remember wondering if this was something that would only affect Oakland. I didn’t know what perception of the Oscar Grant shooting on New Years day of 2009 was for those outside of the Bay Area. This was an important story though and I had hoped that many were following the verdict as closely as those of us in the Bay Area seemed to since I didn’t think of the killing of Oscar Grant as just a Bay Area issue but as one that should be problematic for the country at large.
For a lot of people, Oscar Grant’s identity was wrapped up in one event: that he was an unarmed man shot and killed by a cop. Many of us who followed the case couldn’t claim to know him.
Enter the movie Fruitvale Station.
Written and directed by Oakland native Ryan Coogler, Fruitvale Station details Oscar Grant’s final day. Besides one flashback to a scene in which he was in San Quentin two years prior, the events stick largely to the day before the shooting, New Years Eve 2008. The title is of course, taken from the BART station that was the scene of the shooting.
Oscar Grant became a martyr of sorts after he was killed. The film doesn’t portray him as a perfect person though but instead as someone who has made his share of mistakes – someone flawed who wanted to turn his life around for the better, which makes the inevitable ending that much more tragic.
With Fruitvale Station, Ryan Coogler creates a relevant movie that will become part of the historical narrative of this country. I would say that the shooting is part of the history now of the Bay Area but to be honest, it’s part of its present as its more than just a lingering memory to a lot of people. You can even still see random posters of Oscar Grant around Oakland in storefronts.
The timely nature of the movie, the great performances by Michael B. Jordan and Melonie Diaz as Oscar Grant and his girlfriend Sophina, and it being just a overall good movie are only a few reasons to see Fruitvale Station. I definitely have to recommend it.
Fruitvale Station has been out in theaters for a few weeks now. If you haven’t had a chance to see it, do yourself a favor and watch it. Bring tissues, no joke.