By State Representative, Leon D. Young
This past weekend I had the extraordinary experience of seeing the film Fruitvale Station for the first time. This riveting movie is the initial commercial offering of Ryan Coogler: a talented young Black filmmaker who destined to make his mark in Hollywood if afforded the opportunity.
Fruitvale Station is the true story of Oscar (Grant), a 22-year-old Bay Area resident who wakes up on the morning of December 31, 2008 and feels something in the air. Not sure what it is, he takes it as a sign to get a head start on his resolutions: being a better son to his mother, whose birthday falls on New Year’s Eve; being a better partner to his girlfriend, who he hasn’t been completely honest with as of late; and being a better father to T, their beautiful 4 year old daughter.
He starts out well, but as the eventful and tragic day goes on, he realizes that change is not going to come easy.
He crosses paths with friends, family, and strangers, each exchange showing us that there is much more to Oscar than meets the eye. But it would be his final encounter of the day, with police officers at the Fruitvale BART station that would shake the Bay Area to its very core, and cause the entire nation to be witnesses to the story of Oscar Grant.
More important, this movie provides an excellent backdrop for a much broader discussion that centers on the incidences of Black youth dying while in police custody across the country. Regrettably, the Milwaukee Police Department has been involved in more than its share of “questionable police conduct” resulting in the loss of human life or residents being brutally mistreated.
In 1981, Ernest Lacy, a 22-year-old African-American, died in police custody after being arrested for a rape that it was later learned he didn’t commit. Fast forward to 2011, Derek Williams, another 22-year-old Black man, is captured on video grasping for breath in the back of a police squad car – before finally succumbing to death.
A coalition of residents came forward last November and presented the U.S. attorney’s office with evidence that they say proves Milwaukee police have violated citizens’ rights through using excessive force, engaging in racial profiling and generating misconduct complaints. Over the last 10 years, these complaints have cost taxpayers more than $14 million.
In light of Trayvon Martin, Jordan Davis, Oscar Grant, Derek Williams, Ernest Lacy and too many others. Fruitvale Station is a “must-see” movie that begs a far bigger question: Are Black boys endangered in America?