Why You Need to See “Fruitvale Station”


I saw the award-winning movie “Fruitvale Station” today. For anyone not familiar, the film is about the last 24 hours of Oscar Grant’s life, a 22-year-old black male who was shot and killed by a white Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) police officer in the early morning of January 1, 2009.

I won’t give any spoilers in case you haven’t seen it, but I will say it’s a must see for two reasons.

The director is Ryan Coogler, a 27-year-old black male (who has quite an inspiring story of his own) and a few things he said about the film and the reason he decided to direct this particular story can sum up just why everyone needs to watch this movie much better than my own words:

Reason #1
From an article on Buzzfeed.com:
“So I hope that people who never knew anything about Oscar, or don’t know people like Oscar, or don’t come in contact with young male African-Americans on a personal basis [see it]. So often, those are the people that are making the policies that affect those people, those are the people that are given a badge and gun and told to protect those people,” Coogler continues, highlighting years of entrenched disconnect. “So often those are the people that are called to juries, people whose their only contact with [African-Americans] is through the media, going to see a movie. So I hope people see this film and spend time with this guy and realize they’re just like us.”

Coogler hit the head on the nail. The men and women who hold the majority of power in this country; the ones who make policies that govern the way we live; the ones who are supposed to create programs to support us; the ones who are supposed to represent us and our needs; and the ones who are supposed to educate us (school wise)…do NOT know us.

They see images in the media and, if they have no other experience with us to go on, those images become who we are to them. Black women become loud, ghetto, gold-digging and angry who all have “ghetto booties” and wear weave.

Black men become violent thugs who wear chains and gold teeth; men who always abandon their families and do nothing but sell (and do) drugs. Now sistas, just like me, I’m sure you know plenty of Black men and women who are the total opposite of the above. Yet, if those outside our community have never had any real experiences interacting with Blacks, don’t personally know any of us (or have even tried to get to know us), their perspectives can unfortunately be shaped by inaccurate information. Not every Black woman is loud and not every Black man sells drugs. And, pertaining to Oscar Grant and even Trayvon Martin, not every Black male who wears a hoodie and might have a criminal record (especially at such a young age) is a thug who deserved to die.

Like Coogler stated, as I watched the movie, I prayed people of all races would watch this film (and more Black-related films) to see that, though different in our makeup, we are humans just like them.

I believe Coogler’s representation was fair; he didn’t put Grant on a pedestal and portray him as a saint. He was real. He had ups and downs, made good and bad choices, just as we all do, regardless of the shade of our skin. Those who aren’t in our community need to understand that, because you cannot fully and fairly protect, support, represent and serve a group of people you know nothing about.

Reason #2
From an interview on IndieWire:
“I had a need to speak to things we deal with on a day-to-day basis. So few get our stories told by us. I knew I had an inherent responsibility to show things we struggle with every day, things that are good in our lives, the human relationships we have with people we love, with our kids. Because that is not often shown in the media, it often leads to issues where we are not seen as full human beings.”

When someone else is telling our story, they can tell it through their eyes and perspective…not ours. And the cases of others outside our community who even want to tell our stories and shine the light on Black life are rare.

Black people need to watch this movie and read Coogler’s story because we need more to follow in his footsteps. We need voices for our community to tell our stories, highlight our accomplishments and portray us accurately.

Think about it: You know how magazines (and TV) always come up with these “the most beautiful” lists? And you know how the majority of the faces are white? Why?

Because the people who are in control of these industries are going to represent themselves and those a part of their communities how they want to. And if a white man believes blonde hair, blue eyes and pale skin constitute the most attractive features in a woman, those are what you’ll see on the TV screen and magazine covers.

There’s a new romantic film every other month solely about a white couple, yet “Love & Basketball” and even “Think Like A Man” are only a handful. Why? Because whites see love in their community and want that image portrayed. I know many married Black couples (and a great deal who have been married for years), but to look at the media you wouldn’t know this existed. No one is going to tell our story.

Whether it’s film, or art, education or fashion, it doesn’t matter what you’re passions and gifts are. I simply urge you to pursue them because we need more Black people accurately representing us and telling our stories. Even if you’re not passionate about focusing solely on Black issues, that’s okay. The fact that just one more successful Black man and/or woman can be added to our roster is powerful for our community. We need more of us representing us—whether that be through you writing the story or you being the person the story is written about.

Sistas we need more Ryan Cooglers, more men and women like us, for us and using their gifts and talents to help better us and our community.

Service is her passion, writing is her platform, uplifting women and the Black Community is her purpose. Shala Marks is a writer, editor and soon-to-be author. Through her work, Marks aspires to demonstrate “The Craft of Writing, and the Art of Efficacy.” She has a B.A. in journalism from Arizona State University. Connect with her at:
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/shala.marks
LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/shalamarks


  1. Thank you for the article, Shala
    My daughter went to see this with friends last night as well.
    Maybe it is age, but I have gotten to the point where I can’t watch stories like this anymore.
    On another note, I told a friend recently that my daughter “was learning.”
    After the GZ verdict (I won’t ever write his name) I saw my daughter looking up Emmett Till and Oscar Grant on her iPad.
    A while later I heard her crying.
    I knew what was happening. Without any words from me she was learning what it means to be black in this world.
    I didn’t know what to say to her and told her so. I knew I couldn’t tell her to get a good education and all would be okay and this would never happen to her or anyone she knows. I knew I could not tell her to be polite to authority figures and this would never happen to her, so I just told her the truth. “You are black, and this world isn’t going to be fair to you or anyone who looks like you.”
    I think she know that now. I was almost grown before it hit me.

  2. Left the theater in tears. So proud of this young man for making this movie and telling Oscar Grant’s story the way it should have been told. This man had his life stolen from him in the most heinous of ways. God rest his soul and may the Lord watch over his family.

  3. NO one moved or said a word for 10 minutes after the movie ended. Absolute beautiful, riveting and sad at the same time. This movie is a must see !!

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