Black Collegians host "Fruitvale Station" screening at SMC, continue police brutality discussion

Police brutality has surfaced and resurfaced itself as a major social issue of our time. It is a problem that despite all previous protests and social change movements, keeps rearing its ugly head every few years.

Ryan Coogler's film "Fruitvale Station" came out in 2013, just a year before a chain of police brutality cases around the country that have sparked outrage in the media.

In Santa Monica College's HSS 165, this controversial film was shown before an audience in a screening organized by English professor David Burak. Members of Black Collegians, the English Department, and the Corsair served on a panel to facilitate a discussion about the film.

Coogler's film takes a no frills approach and shows you modern-day Oakland in a homey setting that makes you feel like you are right there in the film.

"Fruitvale Station" is chilling and an almost uncomfortable film to watch, as it is based on a true story and hits close to home for anyone who has been stereotyped by law enforcement.

The movie opens with a scene that sets the building blocks for the rest of the film. Real life cell phone footage of the film's main character, Oscar Grant, being beaten by police until being fatally shot.

The rest of the film relives the last day of his life, being New Year's Eve 2008, and the growth of Grant, played by Michael B. Jordan.

Oscar's girlfriend Sophina (Melonie Diaz) and his daughter Tatiana (Ariana Neal) are introduced in the film and we get a sense of the struggle that he is enduring being a father and a boyfriend, while hiding the secret of his unemployment.

In the film you get the very first sense of racial tension when Oscar visits the market where he was fired from and meets Katie (Ahna O'Reilly), as he tries to help her decide on which fish to buy.

The scene is at first like what you can imagine it would be when a black guy approaches a white girl, and you could very much see her skin crawl. Ironically they both became friendly and the character of Katie returns to juxtapose their initial encounter later in the film.

It was supposed to be a normal New Year's Eve, Sophina wanted to see the fireworks in San Francisco with Oscar.

The dramatic irony in the story occurs when Oscar wants to stay lowkey and Sophina wants to go out. Oscar's mother (Octavia Spencer) recommends that they take the BART so that they stay safe and don't drink and drive.

The one place where they were supposed to stay safe ends up being the furthest from it. The scene finally comes where Oscar and friends are confronted with a problem and he ends up being gunned down by police. We see Katie again, but she is yelling at the police while bystanders watch the horrific scene and record it on their camera phones.

When watching it, you hope it ends a different way, if not for the sake of Oscar's young 22-year-old life, for the sake of his daughter Tatiana.

The film's irony was not lost on anyone watching the film and many people in the audience were left wiping away their tears.

SMC English professor Wilfred Doucet hit the nail on the head when sharing his thoughts on the panel, saying "Those whose job it is to protect you, to keep you safe are the ones representing the danger."

For Doucet he felt this incident was too close to home as he used to get off on Fruitvale Station to go to work when he resided in the Bay Area.

For many, the film was hard to separate from real life because of the reality of the story.

Panel member Osiris Booque said, "My roommate Andreas is a film major and he kinda taught me this skill when you're watching a movie, watch the movie and remember it's a movie. But this wasn't a movie, it actually happened."

Police brutality is a problem that people deal with everyday.

Corsair staff writer Ethan Singleton, who participated in the panel as a member of Black Collegians said, "If you look at the movie through the lens of analyzing Oscar as a character, you're taken on this journey of like he was developing the whole time through all these relationships he had. He was in prison but that was a flashback. He's in this conscious state of growth the whole time."

This observation serves as a reminder of the dehumanization of black people that has plagued society's minds. The director consciously shows the development of Oscar's character, like any other character, he has human emotions.

Growing up a black man in America is tough. Panel member Jon Kent said, "I had that transition myself. I was a cute little boy and then I became a sudden threatening black man."

There was a resounding question throughout the audience of ways to fight back nonviolently and questions like, "Where have we gone since the 60's?"

Corsair Editor-in-Chief Alci Rengifo said, "What we lack in comparison to the 60's and 70's is political consciousness. The anger is there, the drive to act is there, but what we need to do is start forming ideas in how to really fight back in a concrete way."

He mentioned events happening right now around the world that brought the issue full circle. The issues in the Middle East, problems between Israel and Palestine, Gaza, Charlie Hebdo in France, and Greece are all prevalent today. "In 2008, they [Greece] had a massive national uprising like you see in this film. An 18-year-old kid from one of the poor areas in Athens was shot and killed exactly like you see in this film," he said.

Rengifo went on to say, "The Black Panthers were fighting racism but at the same time were reading the 'Wretched of the Earth,' they were reading Che Guevara, they were following the Cuban Revolution, they were following all of the stuff that was happening worldwide."