“The violence in this country, especially as it effects African-American men and boys, is not a problem,” Mayor Michael Nutter said last night at a screening of the new film, Fruitvale Station. “It is an epidemic, it is a disease…. We need to do something about it.”
Standing before a packed theater of invited guests from Philadelphia youth groups, including the Mayor’s Violence Prevention Workshop, the Youth Violence Reduction Partnership and other city and community initiatives, the Mayor introduced the film – a wrenching dramatizion of the events leading up to the New Year’s Day, 2009, shooting death of Oscar Grant, a young, black Oakland, Calif., resident. Returning home from New Year’s Eve celebrations in San Francisco , Grant, 22, unarmed, was killed by a transit police officer on a station platform. Michael B. Jordan stars as Grant in the Sundance Film Festival prize winner.
Standing in front of the Ritz Five screen, accompanied by Gerard McMurray and Ephraim Walker, a producer and consultant, respectively, for the film, Mayor Nutter offered brief but emotional comments to the audience of teens and city officials.
“We know a little bit about New Year’s Day 2009, Oscar Grant and his death," Nutter said. "We know that last year a young man, 17-years-old, Trayvon Martin, and the aftermath of that particular case, caught national and international attention. Very different situations and circumstances, but they actually share one huge connector: young... black...men... dead.
"Unfortunately that happens on the streets of our city and many other cities across the United States of America," Nutter continued, promising "the very young men who are here with us tonight… [that] our work and our jobs as adults is to make sure that that never, ever happens to you, or your friends, or other young boys all across America. That is my focus, that is my goal, that’s my commitment."
Nutter encouraged the crowd to consider "what's going on in our society," and to do something about it. "That's what tonight is about," he said.
Fruitvale Station is currently playing in theaters around the area.