I guess it’s fitting that on the day I saw “Fruitvale Station,” the dramatic retelling of the murder of 22-year-old Oscar Grant, it was pouring rain from the sky. God must have known I was going to need something to mask my tears. Watching “Fruitvale Station” was a first for me. It was the first time I watched a movie that made me cry. It was the first movie that stirred some sort of fear and apprehensiveness towards the streets, subways, and alleys I grew up believing were safe. To be totally transparent, watching “Fruitvale Station” was also the first time I actually believed my mother was right to worry about me.
As I sat in the theater looking into the eyes of Michael B. Jordan, the actor playing Oscar Grant, I didn’t see any of those cliché windows into Grant’s soul. I saw myself. You see, when I first got into this business, I was a bright-eyed 22-year-old burger slinger with dreams of making it in the big city. My first big assignment was to cover a film screening in New York City which meant I’d have to catch three trains to take my bite out of the Big Apple. I was so excited and my mom was excited that I was excited, but there was an underlying sense of worry etched in her brow. She said, “Boy, you be careful out there. Call me when you get there. Matter of fact, come pray with me.”
Me being the slightly rebellious son fighting to claim his independence waved her off with, “Ma, you worry too much! I’ll be fine. I can take of myself. But make sure Jesus lets you know He got me.” She kissed me on the forehead and I bounded down the stairs and out to meet my dreams. Everything went fine at the screening, in fact, I pinched myself just to make sure everything was truly happening. All of that excitement I had quickly dissipated once I stepped through the door and Mom was sitting there holding on to a concoction of fear, worry and anger.
“Didn’t I tell you to call me when you got there?! You don’t listen! You think you know everything and that you’re invincible!” And there I was getting into an argument with my mom, the only parent I had, over a missed phone call. In my naïveté, I deemed her reaction to be a bit extra so I bucked back. “Didn’t I just walk through the door?! I don’t even know why you acting like this! I finally did something I have been dreaming about since I was a kid and you can’t even be happy for me! You seriously mad over a phone call? For real?!” There was no response to my tirade, which in my house is worse than catching a Joe Jackson-rivaling ass whooping. No response meant she was plotting and that’s never a good thing if you’re on the receiving end.