HOUSTON-It was the early morning hours of New Years Day in 2009 when Oscar Grant was fatally shot down in cold blood by BART Police Officer Johannes Mehserle in Oakland, California.
The moment is frozen in time for Cephus “Uncle Bobby” Johnson, the uncle of Oscar Grant. It was a moment that changed his life and started a mission to rip off the veil and tell the world the truth about police brutality and injustices happening to young Black males at the hands of police and security forces.
The film “Fruitvale Station” draws attention to that pressing problem in America that points to and involves police brutality, injustice and racial inequalities.
The film came to Acres Home for a public community showing sponsored by Krystal Muhammad, Chair for the New Black Panther Party and Sonia Parker, founder of Parents Against Predators.
Parents Against Predators (PAP) was founded in 2009 under the direction of Sgt. Michael and Sonia Parker, a husband and wife veteran team based in Houston. The 501(c) Non-Profit Organization charitable organization that unites parents, schools, community, and churches together to reach our children with vital messages that will empower them to tell if anyone harm them in anyway. P.A.P is here to protect child and ensures that hurt children receive hope, healing, and love.
In the early hours of Jan. 1, 2009, Oscar Grant III, unarmed and lying face down on a subway platform in Oakland, Calif., was shot in the back by a white Bay Area Rapid Transit police officer. The incident, captured on video by onlookers, incited protest, unrest and arguments similar to those that would swirl around the killing of Trayvon Martin in Florida a few years later.
The film reconstructs the last 24 or so hours of Oscar Grant’s life, flashing back from a horrifying snippet of actual cellphone video of the hectic moments before the shooting by the BART officer.
Directed by 26-year-old Ryan Coogler, it covers the final day leading up to his murder by BART police officer Mehserle in Oakland. Mehserle was convicted of involuntary manslaughter and sentenced to two years in prison and ended up only serving a portion of the short sentence, which sparked outrage and riots across the Bay Area.
For Freedom Fighters, the Oscar Grant family represents more than a movie. It was a serious wake up call on the status of young Black men in America and demonstrates the reality of what many Black and Brown Americans are dealign with everyday on streets in our major cities.
The panel was headed up by “Uncle Bobby” Johnson, Muhammad, Parker, Kofi Taharka, leader of the National Black United Front, Houston, Robbie Tolan and others.
Johnson made his appearance in Houston to support efforts to shed light on the police brutality issue and support Robert Bobby Tolan, who was shot and nearly killed by a Bellaire Police Officer in 2009 and other families going through the loss of a loved one at the hands of police brutality.
The San Diego native and son of 14-year Major League Veteran Bobby Tolan, was a baseball standout at Bellaire High School in Houston, TX.
After graduating from Bellaire in 2003, Robbie attended Prairie View A&M University, where he helped lead the Panthers to their second consecutive conference title in 2007. Following the Panthers’ championship season, Robbie signed to play with the Washington Nationals, with dreams of following in his father’s footsteps. During Robbie’s brief stint with the Nationals, he was promoted through the minor leagues twice in three months due to his work ethic and maturity, before being released in 2008.
An errant mistake by a Bellaire Police officer alleged that Robbie stole a car that was his own, and parked it in the driveway in front of his parents’ home. Robbie and his cousin were forced by officers to lie faced down on the ground at gunpoint.
During the confrontation, Robbie’s mother was thrown into the family’s own garage door; and when Tolan protested the mistreatment of his mother, he was shot in the chest by an officer. The bullet traveled through Robbie’s lung, and punctured his liver, where it still remains today.
Johnson is active from New York to California and is working with Tolan and other families nationwide including the family of Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis, who were killed as a result of senseless violence that was covered over by a court system that failed to protect Black youth from violent hate mongering “race” predators.
“Uncle Bobby” shared his motivation for being involved after Oscar was shot dead stating that it helped him find purpose over allowing himself to be consumed by the anger over his death.
“We embrace and support Robbie Tolan and other families because we know the pain and anger that lingers after brutality and injustice,” he said. “God let me know that the best way for me was to reach out to others the way the community and families reached out to us and embraced us during that critical time of loss in our lives.”
According to Johnson, cases like Grants, Adolph GrimesIII of New Orleans, La., Travon Martin and Jordan Davis of Florida and the many other recent cases in Hearne Texas, Dallas, Texas, Houston, Austin and other Texas cities where the police departments have stereotyped young and old Black people demonstrate the lack of respect for Black life.
He said his experience empowered him to stand up and speak out about the injustices and that is how he got started and has not looked back.
“It let me know how important it is to stand up and also how I can be a ray of hope to others,” he said. “This movie and sessions are training grounds of hope for those suffering. It tells everyone who sees it that you can do it, it is the right thing to do. You can fight it and you can get justice.”
He added that no one should walk around carrying frustration and pain of the loss because help is a phone call, an e-mail or personal contact away.
“It is my hope that we in the Black community understand that what affects one truly affects us all,” he said. “We are here to uplift and encourage our community first to have hope and not to give up and to learn to have the courage to stand up and fight for that loved one silenced by the genocidal brutality and racism that has been unleashed on Black America.”