New Year’s Day 2009 there was a lot of buzz about the wrongful death of 22-year-old Oscar Grant. After a night of New Year’s partying with friends, he was shot by a White Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) police officer on the Fruitvale Station platform in Oakland, California.
Produced by Forest Whitaker, Fruitvale Station, starring Michael B. Jordan and Octavia Spencer, is a poster child story of life and redemption. The movie opens with the cold, chilling cell phone footage of the early morning accounts of what happened at the Fruitvale Station.
The jagged video set the tone for the entire movie because even without prior knowledge of Oscar Grant (Jordan), you knew that after 90 minutes you would be equipped with all you needed to know.
This Sundance Festival favorite sheds light on the reality that an unarmed Black man was gunned down by a White transit police officer in front of dozens of witnesses.
Oscar Grant’s mother, Wanda Johnson (Spencer) celebrates her New Year’s Eve birthday with her family every year. 2009 was no different. For her birthday in 2008, she had to visit her son in a local state prison but that was all behind her now. Her birthday was spent with loved ones including Oscar, his girlfriend Sophina (Melonie Diaz), and 4-year-old granddaughter, Tatiana (Ariana Neal). Once the birthday party was over, Wanda advised Oscar to take the train that night declaring there would be a lot of New Year’s Eve traffic. Oscar took his mother’s advice and it would be advice she would regret for the rest of her life.
It’s virtually impossible for viewers to take their eyes off of Michael B. Jordan. As he embarks on this powerful role, you can’t help but to feel as if you’re on the subway platform too. It seems as if Jordan studied Oscar Grant to perfect his every move by showcasing his strength to fight for family and the sensitivity of losing his job and kicking old habits. There’s no doubt that Jordan was meant for this role. Beyond physical similarities, Jordan effortlessly takes of the unfortunate narrative of Oscar Grant’s last moments.
Accused of murder BART police officer Johannes Mehserle claims that he thought the weapon he drew was a Taser. Instead, he drew a pistol firing the shot which killed Oscar Grant. Today, after serving less than 2 years for Grant’s death, Mehserle is free on parole.
In the wake of the Trayvon Martin verdict, it’s evident that we have to be mindful that race still plays a rampant role in social injustice and equality. Regardless of the shooter’s race, shooting victims cannot be dismissed because of judicial loopholes, accidental claims, racial provocation, or authoritative position.
On a lighter note, there’s always a connection to Pittsburgh. In the movie, before leaving out for his New Year’s celebration, Oscar asks his uncle who he thinks will win the Super Bowl. His uncle replies, “The Steelers!” After family members questioned his loyalty to the Oakland Raiders, Oscar uncle’s rebuttal was simple: The Pittsburgh Steelers were going to win the 2009 Super Bowl because they had black uniforms, with Black players and a Black coach who was married to a Black woman. In 2009, the Pittsburgh Steelers did go on win that year’s Super Bowl by defeating the Arizona Cardinals 27-23. It’s always a warm feeling to know that although Pittsburgh might not be a huge city, we’re still relevant!
5 STARS: The most powerful movie I’ve seen since A Time to Kill. The last day in the life of Oscar Grant is powerful enough to move anyone from solid to pure putty. This movie will leave you doubtful of justice yet optimistic and hopeful about leading a fulfilled life. Oscar Grant III wanted nothing more than to live a better life for his daughter. On a chilly California night on New Year’s Day 2009, fate gave him the exact opposite.