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Thursday, July 25, 2013

Oakland Father Reflects On ‘Fruitvale Station’

This film publicity image shows a scene from "Fruitvale Station." (Ron Koeberer/The Weinstein Company via AP)

This film publicity image shows a scene from “Fruitvale Station.” (Ron Koeberer/The Weinstein Company via AP)

Jack Bryson’s two sons were on the train platform on New Year’s Day in 2009 when Oscar Grant III was shot by a transit police officer in Oakland, Calif.

A lot of people are getting educated about what happened, but to these young men it’s like a nightmare all over again.

– Jack Bryson

That act, captured on videos by BART riders, sparked outrage around the country and spurred first-time director Ryan Coogler to make the feature film “Fruitvale Station.”

It also motivated Bryson to become a spokesman on behalf of the “New Year’s Movement for Oscar Grant,” as well as a community activist.

It’s hard for Bryson’s sons, who were childhood friends of Oscar Grant, to watch the movie.

“A lot of people are getting educated about what happened, but to these young men it’s like a nightmare all over again,” Bryson told Here & Now. “My younger son he goes to watch its like he gets to see Oscar again, that’s how close it is to him. It’s like he gets to spend the day with Oscar.”

Bryson has seen the movie four times.

“I go to keep an eye on my sons and then some of the young men that were on the platform with them too. You can’t forget about Michael Greer, Carlos Reyes, Johntue Caldwell, Chris, Sofina, Jameel and Mario — all the people that were with Oscar Grant that night. I go, just as a father. Making sure they’re cool emotionally, because each time they break down.”

He has mixed feelings on whether justice was served after Oscar Grant was killed.

Oscar Grant's uncles: Cephus Johnson, middle, at podium, and Kenneth Johnson, right, comment on the denial of bail for ex transit officer Johannes Mehserle, outside the Los Angeles Superior Court on Friday, Dec. 3, 2010. At left is Jack Bryson. (Damian Dovarganes/AP)

Oscar Grant’s uncles: Cephus Johnson, middle, at podium, and Kenneth Johnson, right, outside the Los Angeles Superior Court on Dec. 3, 2010. At left is Jack Bryson. (Damian Dovarganes/AP)

“Most police officers that kill black or brown young men, after they’re found not guilty or found that the reason they killed them was reasonable, then they go back into the community and the family has to see that police officer every day,” he said. “In this case, Johannes Mehserle did not get his job back, and he did do some jail time. On the other hand, if you have a video and it shows that it’s flat out murder, then he deserved murder.”

Of Bryson’s many fond memories of Oscar Grant, one stands out. After Grant had his own child, he told Bryson he finally understood something.

“He said ‘Man I see what you were doing. You want to protect your child.’ And that touched me, that touched me. You said he wasn’t a saint, but he was to me, he was, and he was a good dude. It’s hard to look — I mean I see Oscar’s mother, we’re cool, she’s very nice to me. But how can you look at a mother when your sons and the other young men were there and her son was the one that didn’t make it, and our sons made it home? You live with that guilt too.”

Guest

  • Jack Bryson, community activist in Oakland, Calif. whose two sons were with Oscar Grant III when he was shot.

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