After I saw the film Fruitvale Station, which was based on the life of Oscar Grant leading up to the events of his death by a BART police officer, I began to wonder, “What will it take to end the stigma associated with black males? What can be done to help address the issue of violence in urban communities?”
The film addressed issues and invoked a variety of emotions with which communities of color are all too familiar. Every young man with a past is not necessarily a threat to his community and should not always be seen merely as an individual who is up to no good.
The film showed a flashback scene of Oscar in prison, to illuminate his relationship with his mother, daughter and girlfriend. To show her son tough love, Grant’s mother Wanda, played by Octavia Spencer, told her son she would no longer visit him while in prison. I could feel the heartbreak and tension was felt.
How many young people have been left to their own devices in a justice system that is clearly broken? Still today, Black men are faced with the same issues of unemployment and incarceration. Due to past mistakes, they have been incarcerated; when they try to re-enter society, employment options have become more limited.
This was shown in the film when Grant tried to convince his former employer to rehire him, and he was denied.
The problem Grant faced is another reality that can be only corrected if the system in place is amended to better equip these men with the tools they need to re-enter society. New policies are needed which treat hardened criminals differently than non-violent offenders.
When I checked social media responding to the film, I came across some truly interesting and understandable tweets. The film created a believable image of a young man trying to improve his life, in desperate need of a second chance. The film made the audience see the humanity of Grant, who was portrayed by Michael B. Jordan.
One Twitter account @Remona_Leshay tweeted, “Finally saw Fruitvale Station and it has left me filled with emotion. Pass the tissues please.”
While @_ESEKnowsBest said, “Fruitvale Station? I walked out of the movie theatre with a box of Kleenex.”
Or when @nelsongeorge tweeted, “The Butler is #1 with 25 million. Fruitvale Station has made $14 million. Spike has his $1.2 million & is already shooting. Sweet news.”
Near the end of the film when the audience saw how the fight had started on the train which led to Grant and his peers being pulled off the train and forcefully being subdued by the BART police, tension in the theater rose. After Grant was shot and killed, there were protests and rallies, but what has really changed since then?
If law enforcement established a better relationship with the community where people could have trust in the individuals that claim to protect them, they won’t be the problem but part of the solution. Then things could start to change.
Local neighborhood watch groups can work with CAPS officers to make things better in particular communities. As long as people fear what they can’t control, they will continue to attack the situation from the wrong angle. Change has to take place in the household.
For too long, fatherless households have existed and only served to further divide urban communities and leave parenting roles to single parents and grandparents. These dynamics have to change and communities must start being accountable for residents instead of acting as if the problem is limited to a specific area. Perhaps if the youth are raised with morals, have a strong foundation, and believe that they can be more than what society or others try to claim they are, then change can come.