9/18/2013 I am not sure if I have ever been this moved to anger by anything. I didn’t just see Oscar Grant on that screen. I saw my brother, my nephews, [my ex-boyfriend], every black man that I have loved or thought to love. My heart is broken into a million pieces about the cheapness of a black life. It isn’t right. It’s far from just and it was never meant for us … this American life. It has served us in no tangible way. We remain entangled, snared in our own weaknesses and short comings. Constantly kicked in the stomach, but told to get up. I am [resentful] at and for black men everywhere and I am choking on the words. My fingers can’t write them and my mouth can’t speak them. I am burning with anger. God please help me find a way to express this to the goal of healing rather than self destruction.
I wrote that on the subway ride home the night after I’d seen Fruitvale Station. I have not ever in my life reacted so strongly to a film. From the opening scene, footage of the actual murder of Oscar Grant, to the last moments of the dramatic re-enactment on film I was destroyed. I sobbed openly and out loud as if I’d seen my own son murdered. I exited the theatre and walked Third Avenue mad enough to strangle someone. Not a White person, not the Police … anyone. Even the next morning, when I looked back on it, I still harbored residual anger. How could any human life be so worthless? Why are incidents like this treated so nonchalantly?
These questions danced around in my head for the proceeding days. People were talking about this film everywhere. I didn’t run across one person who’d seen it and not walked away feeling gut punched. This is what I want my work as an artist to do, I thought, rattle the consciousness of people, and maybe … just maybe … affect change. Surely, most people speculated, This film will do well in award season. Even I, knowing better, allowed myself to dwell in the illusion that the power of this film and the issues it raises would have to be acknowledge by the artistic higher ups.
As we know, and should not be too shocked by, Fruitvale was summarily snubbed by the more illustrious award granting bodies (Oscars/Globes). I could spend the remainder of this post bitching about that, citing my issues with films of inferior quality/content that were nominated, but I would be missing the point. The lesson or I should say the reminder, at least for me, is this: Film is film, a subjective art form made by an endless variety of creators for an endless variety of reasons. There are a million and two reasons why certain films, actors, and directors are (or are not) chosen for esteemed awards. I’d lay the cost of my Tisch tuition on some of the reasons having little to do with the quality of the work. That’s neither here nor there. What I need to remember is that if I choose to participate in this industry (and it is a choice) I must lay to the side any expectation of glory and tell stories because I want to or because on some cellular level I need to.
Most of the time I try to tell stories that set me on fire. After all, I am a Black female writer and mother of a Black Son. I am creating during Oscar season, and I speak not of the award, but a time when it appears to be open season on young Black Men like Oscar Grant, Trayvon Martin, Jordan Davis … etc. etc. It is imperative that these stories are told and retold as America has a nasty tendency to forget what she looks like and needs to be reminded every now and again, by bold artist unthreatened by the withholding of “head-pats” and “atta-boys”. (See: Spike Lee)
Now, I know, every film can’t be Fruitvale or Milk or a political diatribe meant to raise awareness about x to y so that z can be forced to change its evil imperialist ways, nor should it be. I mean where the fuck would I be without Pee Wee’s Big Adventure or Dumb and Dumber ( especially the scene where Jim Carey slaps dude in the legs with the cane) to rescue me from the madhouse between my ears and the debacle of George Zimmerman’s budding art career. What I do want us to remember as we huddle around the television and pick apart red carpet fashion do’s and don’t this evening is that film has greater power than any one evening of pomp and circumstance can contain. It sent me out of a theatre a screaming crying mess ready to write all that was wrong with the world. That’s great shit.