Today I went to go see Fruitvale Station. Unfortunately, it wasn’t playing in a theater near me so I had to travel a little ways to see it, and I am so glad that I did.
If you’re not aware of this film, here’s the back story: Twenty-two year old African American Oscar Grant, III was brutally shot & killed in Oakland on New Year’s Day in 2009 by an overzealous White transit cop named Johannes Mehserle. Johannes was sentenced to 2 years but ended up serving only 11 months in prison. That’s right – 11 months in jail for murdering an unarmed young man.
Not knowing much about the story of Oscar Grant, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when I walked into the theater. But 2 minutes into the movie, I was enraged! The movie started off with the live shooting of Oscar Grant (what I’ve attached here) and sets the tone for the rest of the film. This movie shows the kind of man that Oscar was – an imperfect one, but a seemingly good father and completely innocent young man. His whole objective that night was to celebrate New Year’s with his friends and get home safely by taking the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) instead of driving. But he never made it home. Transit cop Mehserle claims that he was reaching for his taser to calm Oscar down but instead grabbed his gun and shot Oscar in the back while he was lying on the ground defenseless.
Riots & protests ensued in the days following Oscar Grant’s murder, some peaceful and some violent. I can only imagine the heartache that Ms. Wanda Johnson felt in losing her son Oscar considering that he was unarmed & not dangerous. Barely old enough to drink, he simply wanted to ring in the New Year without any trouble. There can’t be any worse way to start off your New Year than to learn that your son’s life was unexpectedly & unjustifiably taken. But through it all, she still fights for hope in our justice system and redemption for her son’s execution.
I did feel as though the movie was incomplete. Before the end credits rolled there was a status update letting us know what happened to Oscar’s family & the transit cop that killed him. However, the battle shouldn’t end with his death. Connect with the Oscar Grant Foundation, whose mission is in part to “Provide comfort, needs assessment, emergency counseling and resource referral information to assist the family through the initial aftermath of a traumatic event caused by violence and treatment for the emotional injuries sustained at the hands of law enforcement officers.”
Fruitvale Station won two awards in the 2013 Sundance Film Festival: the Grand Jury Prize for dramatic feature & the Audience Award for U.S. dramatic film. This film stars Academy Award® winner Octavia Spencer and is playing nationwide in a theater near you.
President Obama recently shared the African American perspective on the injustice of the Trayvon Martin not-guilty verdict. Between the outcome of this trial & my own personal experiences I can truly attest to the fact that racism is very much alive & apparently killing.
Like 99.9% of African Americans in this country, I believe that the acquittal of George Zimmerman was unjust. I understand that we are supposed to abide by & trust this country’s legal system but since the vast majority of hate crimes committed are targeted against Blacks it should be obvious why there is so much aught against our judicial system & against White people in general right now. How can it make sense to anyone that when you murder an unarmed individual who was not coming after you in the first place, that you get to walk away with no consequences whatsoever?
I won’t argue the merits of the actual case since the verdict has already been rendered, but suffice it to say that if Trayvon was “Todd” I’m sure the outcome would be much different. Race was most definitely a factor. Going back to the beginning of this ordeal, the police didn’t even make an arrest until a month & a half later (46 days to be exact) and that was only due to public outcry not because Sanford police were inclined to do it on their own. Really?! I’m sure if the tables were turned and Trayvon shot George Zimmerman the arrest would have been instantaneous. One commentator on CNN made a good point: If it was an all-Black jury & they convicted George Zimmerman everyone would argue that the jury was biased or even racist. So, conversely with an all-White jury (with 1 “other” juror), race was an issue.
Going back to President Obama’s press conference, I believe that our President was right on target. My favorite part of the speech was when President Obama said “…we have a history of racial disparities in the application of our criminal laws” and that African Americans have a “difficult history not acknowledged”. NO ONE can understand the anguish that African Americans feel in this country when it comes to race relations. When White people say that they “don’t get it”, it’s just not for them “to get”. For people to claim that George Zimmerman didn’t racially profile Trayvon Martin or that he’s not a racist is preposterous. Someone who isn’t African American can’t possibly understand who is & who isn’t considered a racist. That’s like a man trying to tell a woman that childbirth is no big deal. A man can never really understand pregnancy just like White’s can never understand what it feels like as an African American to experience racism, especially to this magnitude. You can’t belittle our experiences or our realities.
So, now it’s time for action! Even though I wasn’t able to attend a peace rally in honor of Trayvon Martin, I have contacted my local & federal officials for them to take immediate action. You should join me in standing up on behalf of Trayvon Martin and the injustice that was served. Click on the links below to see who to contact:
First of all I wish everybody would leave Rachel Jeantel alone. For those who don’t know, Ms. Jeantel is one of the prosecutor’s main witnesses in the Trayvon Martin case. She was the last person to talk to Trayvon before he was shot & killed by George Zimmerman. Everyone is blowing up the internet talking about her poor diction & grammar. Aside from the fact that she is not a professional witness or used to being on national television, a lot of people are not aware that Rachel’s family is not originally from America. Rachel Jeantel may be from Florida, but she grew up in a Haitian household and for those of you who don’t know the native language for Haitians is Creole not English. So, since she grew up with parents from another country you could only imagine that “proper English” was not spoken in her home and her grammar isn’t going to be as good as someone who was raised by parents who are from here. So the way she speaks has nothing to do with her race or her socioeconomic background; it’s simply her heritage.
But back to my point about jury duty. Although there are no statistics on how many people “duck” jury duty every year, it’s a well-known fact that nobody really likes getting called in to fulfill their civic duty. Aside from the fact that the remuneration is quite little (and I do mean little), jury duty takes up valuable time away from work and depending on the case a trial can be pretty boring.
I get called in for jury duty every 1-2 years and usually try to wiggle my way out of it every time. It’s not that I don’t mind getting a few days off from work but jury duty is just not my thing. Sitting in a chair listening to a bunch of legal jargon and strange people testify about a case I know little to nothing about is not how I would prefer to spend my day off from work. Not to mention, none of the other jurors want to be there either so it makes the time go by slower than usual. However, the one time that I was actually selected to be on a jury I accepted because I was happy to complete my civic duty.
No one really wants to sit on jury duty unless of course they’re chosen for a trial like Michael Jackson’s or Trayvon Martin’s. There are so many people on the internet, Twitter and everywhere else that are making unsolicited comments about the Martin case. It’s as if these people wish they were on the jury themselves. It’s funny how so many people want to escape jury duty but want to talk about what they would do if they were on that jury.
So next time you get a jury summons, be proud to serve! You never know what case you might get.