Fruitvale Station: Not Just Passing Through

Kapor Center representatives at Grand Lake Theater.

Kapor Center representatives at Grand Lake Theater.

A few days ago, a group of Kapor Center colleagues went to view Fruitvale Station. As a social justice organization based in Oakland, we knew two things: 1) this was a film we  needed to see; and 2) we didn’t want to watch it alone.

No spoiler alerts.

Knowing how the story turns out offers no consolation or protection from actually experiencing it. At 90 minutes, it’s blessedly short. The film deftly chronicles the last twenty-four hours of Oscar Grant’s life and in so doing, restores a young man to life. There’s a simplicity and certain economy to the storytelling that allows each viewer to have their own experience, independent of the polarizing debate surrounding the event and the wounds it has reopened.

Perhaps this is one of the film’s gifts: in portraying the spectrum of the young man Oscar was – a real person with real issues, a father, a boyfriend, a son, a brother trying to make his way in the world – the film also captures the many facets of Oakland (a dense microcosm of the world beyond its city limits).  We see the shrinking housing and job options for a young black man who’s done time, the frustrations and hopes of a mother, the kid-gloved conversations between races, the joyous and heartbreaking bursts of connection on BART trains, storefront doors and grocery stores.

More than anything, Fruitvale Station invokes the power of story – the impact of contact, the power of showing what it’s like to walk in another’s skin.  It proves that lives do matter, black lives matter; like Trayvon, Oscar Grant mattered. He touched the world around him in ways good and bad, happy and flawed. At 22 years of age he was shot in the back, right in the middle of his becoming. In restoring his humanity, perhaps we can restore our own.

It took us a full day before we could sit talk and talk about the film.  We’re still reflecting on it. In the meanwhile, we take sustenance in the good work being done by College Bound Brotherhood that –like Ryan Coogler‘s Fruitvale Station– offers to audiences lives of young black men as full, vibrant and beloved as they are.

We also offer a few additional resources to keep fighting the good fight. Check out these great campaigns underway now:  whereIamGoing and the tumblr sites and



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