When the film Fruitvale Station was released, the very weekend it was released, the verdict for Zimmerman in the shooting of Trayvon Martin happened. The sense of tragedy that came with the New Years Eve shooting of Oscar Grant was somehow doubled by the verdict of not guilty for Zimmerman in the shooting of the young black boy of 17, devastating really. We marched with the young people from Berkeley and Oakland the day after the verdict all the way through town and around the neighborhoods. We wanted to make a statement, as did most of the people around us. It's not OK to kill young men with guns. It's not OK for young men to kill each other with guns. It's not OK for self elected people who carry guns to "police" our neighborhoods and shoot children.
Seeing the film Fruitvale Station now several weeks later, some of the heat of the pain for these young black men who find themselves as the San Francisco Chronicle stated in their Sunday series, having the same odds of being killed as to graduate from high school. Having read reveiws and having followed the case along the way, there were few surprises in the story line. Still as Oscar takes his last day seeking, wanting and moving attempting to catch a train he was going to miss. That train would be the train out of the conundrum that is very typical of the young men who have been killed or have dropped out of high school or have been incarcerated. At every turn, you see what influences his decisions, the directions he takes from those who love him-his mother, his girlfriend, his daughter, his boss, his friends. The agreement around reality in the film is very specific and authentic with the words and manner of speaking unique to the culture of Oscar's life, with any group of youths that pass Adeline Street, featured in the film. It spreads from downtown Oakland through Berkeley, and across that path Oscar is looking for an opening, a grip-a hold onto to the life he can't even fully imagine given what he knows within the structure of his life.
The impact to the audience to the film last night provokes a desire to engage - but how, in this ongoing tragedy that we read about daily. Today and yesterday, the Chronicle has stories about the men who have taken on teaching the young black men how to succeed, where to look to gain the experience, mental habits and actions that will produce the possibility of living past 25 and having something to live for. This work is truly making a difference in the number of high school graduates and the recognition by the City that this problem rests with each and every one of us. As the saying goes, we are either part of the problem or part of the solution. And it's time to choose.