Fruitvale Station, a 2013 film on the police shooting of 22 year-old African American man Oscar Grant, was screened last night at the Multicultural Center Theater, along with a discussion on police shootings, common racial issues and other relevant social justice concerns.
The film, written and directed by Oakland-based filmmaker Ryan Coogler, portrays a controversial incident in which BART officer Johannes Mehserle fatally shot Grant and was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter, causing riots to break out in Oakland. Last night’s event touched on the various political and social concerns surrounding the event, such as racial prejudices allegedly involved in the incident and the high level of violence seen in urban America.
The event is just one installment of a week-long event entitled IGNITE, or “Increase Graduations, not Incarcerations and Transform Education.” The series of events is hosted by Associated Students Commission on Racial Equality, Student-Lobby UCSB, the MultiCultural Center, the Black Student Union and the UC Student Association.
Following the screening of the movie, there was a discussion in which students spoke on social issues regarding privilege, inequality and racial profiling. Second-year psychology major Tatia Gomez said what happened to Grant was not a unique circumstance and that racial profiling is a major issue in present-day American society.
“I was actually in Oakland the day this happened,” Gomez said. “It was just such a shame to see that this still happens and people go through things like this on a daily basis.”
Fourth-year political science and Black studies major Anne Sawiris said she felt personally connected to Grant since she also hails from Hayward, the same Bay Area city that Grant was from.
“One thing about Santa Barbara is that you rarely ever hear police sirens and you never hear gunshots, but in Hayward you’re always hearing it, and I really appreciate that they captured that in the movie,” Sawiris said.
Sawiris also said she is upset by how sheltered some students are from the social injustices taking place around the country.
“I’m sick and tired of living in a bubble in Santa Barbara, where you don’t really have to remember what’s going on outside of here and it’s so peaceful here,” Sawaris said. “Everything seems perfect, but it’s all a façade.”
IGNITE Point Chairman Navkiran Kaur said she chose to show the film in order to highlight themes such as incarceration rates and spending on prisons, in light of decreased spending on education and rising tuition.
“While we also see students of color in university decreasing,” Kaur said. “At the same time [the number] people of color in prison is increasing and you see all the different connections in the state of California.”
Kaur also said issues highlighted in the film force important discussions about “students of color” and the relationship between race, power and politics in America today.
“It all plays into the same system of who has power in this country and who has privilege in this country and who is valued and how black bodies, brown bodies, and people of color are not valued,” Kaur said.
According to Sawiris, the screening sends an important message to students — the “leaders of our future.”
“It’s really important to know the reality of the world that we’re coming into and it’s important to be exposed to these things,” Sawiris said. “I’m really hoping that we’re going to go out there and make a change.”
A version of this story appeared on page 4 of the Wednesday, November 20, 2013 issue of the Daily Nexus.