Reflections on “Fruitvale Station”
By Sister Elizabeth L.
New Year’s Eve 2008, was his mother’s birthday. A year ago she was visiting him at San Quentin State Prison. This year his day was framed by preparations for her birthday party.
By New Year’s morning Oscar Grant was dead.
Oscar was shot by a transit officer at the Fruitvale BART station in East Oakland, CA. He and his friends – including his girlfriend, the mother of his little girl – had gone to see the New Year’s fireworks in San Francisco. His mother had suggested that they take BART since it was safer than driving on New Year’s Eve.
The killing of this young Black man was senseless and the transit officer was charged with first-degree homicide. He was tried and convicted only of manslaughter and served eleven months in prison.
This is a true story. “Fruitvale Station” is already attracting a large audience, because of its evocation of the recent trial of George Zimmerman for killing Trayvon Martin. If that brings people to the theater, good. However, it is a disservice to both young men, Trayvon and Oscar, to conflate their stories. The beauty of the film is that it individualizes. Oscar struggles and loves in his own ways. We see him stumble, and again leap for joy, we see light and we see shadows, in the details of this single day of his life. The loss of this mother’s son, this daughter’s father, this lover’s beloved, breaks our hearts.
Before we return to the also necessary outcry at the slaughter of so many young Black men, we need to give Trayvon Martin’s life the same loving attention.