Wednesday, July 31, 2013
All Aboard For Fruitvale Station
Originally, I wasn't going to see "Fruitvale Station," the just released film about the last twenty-four hours in the life of Oscar Grant, who was shot to death by a Bay Area Rapid Transit quasi-cop on New Year's Day in 2009. Fruitvale Station is the Oakland, California, stop Grant, his girlfriend, and their buddies reached after a night of New Year's Eve revelry in San Francisco. It was the end of the line for Oscar Grant and I didn't think I could handle it right now.
I had barely crawled out from under the rotted log the George Zimmerman verdict had dropped on my psyche. And I had things to do. So, when a student messaged me on Facebook asking if I was going to see the film, I responded instantly that I didn't have the emotional and psychological cool to go.
Still, as I jogged that morning before the Louisiana heat and humidity descended, I remembered that, if we don't attend films like this, they won't make them. And people that look like me need to show up in particular because (a) it's good for our consciousness (painful or not) and (b) Black people need to know that some of us give a shit. Sigh.
So I went.
"Fruitvale Station" is Ryan Coogler's love letter to the Black American family and a memorial to Oscar Grant such as any of us would be proud to have represent us. It's not over-dramatized, jacked up with Hollywoodism, or embedded with political diatribes masked as dialogue or worse, voice-overs. It's just a story about one day in a young man's life. The scene in Grant's mother's kitchen with the family preparing her birthday feast the afternoon before Grant's death is a classic. I've been there so many times, I could smell the gumbo. And watching the entire film knowing what the end would be made each moment more poignant without the addition of dramatic contrivances.
No question about it, by the time the credits were rolling, I was an aching emotional basket case. Walking into the theater lobby, holding on to the edges of my public personna by my fingernails, I ran straight into the student who had Facebooked me that morning. Without a word, she opened her arms and I burst into tears on her shoulder right there in front of God and everybody while the families on their way to see "Despicable Me 2" pretended not to notice from their places in the popcorn line.
Suffice it to say, I'm glad I went, in spite of the fact that it did make me sad(der). As I got in my car to leave, I loaded my Putumayo cd of Blues Around the World into my sound system and spent the rest of the day listening to Eric Bibb and Maria Muldaur sing "Don't Ever Let Nobody Drag Your Spirit Down."
I don't typically embed a music video on this blog with only a photo image, but after several days of consideration, I've decided to post it anyway. Keep in mind that my "gospel" is peace and love through justice for all and that Heaven, for me, is not a pie-in-the-sky in the sweet-by-and-by place with streets of gold (whatever the point of that might be for somebody). Heaven, for me, would be a world where children can expect to grow up safe and loved and with full stomachs, where people really see each other when they look at each other, and where humans are raised knowing that the planet is their mother and that they are just one form of the life she sustains. I do believe we're on the way to that Heaven and that, because that's true, we don't need to ever let nobody drag our spirit down. All aboooooard!