A few months ago I was asked to do a mural for the film “Fruitvale Station” which is about the killing of Oscar Grant and was released this week.
I had done a few pieces regarding those events in the past which some of the people at Weinstein Co. had seen and liked.
I have some pretty strong feelings on this subject and it had a deep impact on the community I call home (East Oakland). I drafted several layouts of what I was going to do, all of which were very similar to the work the film makers had seen. We had a few debates about the appropriateness of merch (t-shirts, stickers etc.) and also hashtags being included in the mural. I also suggested that the mural be in Oakland and not San Francisco. I was told that they didn’t want to do it in Oakland because it may cause a situation and this was a very hot button issue in Oakland.
After a lot of back and forth, I received an email with a list of requirements that were apparently from the director Ryan Coogler and not from Weinstein Co.. Essentially, I was told that my image was too dark and negative and there was a concern about upsetting people, particularly in the bay area. In my opinion if you tell the story of an innocent, unarmed black man being shot in the back by a white police officer while restrained and people are not upset and outraged than you haven’t told the story correctly. People should be upset, very upset. There was also a list of “cannot’s”
– show pictures of anyone but oscar
– have a gun
– focus the issue on the trial or his murder
At this point the mural could not in any way make reference to Oscar Grant’s murder or the police. The film (which I have seen) is about Oscar Grant’s death. Had Oscar Grant not been murdered, Mr. Coogler would not have made this film. Had Oscar Grant been murdered by another young man, a civilian, this film would not have been made. To my mind to exclude the murder and the police from my image would be dodging what is at the core of this issue.
There was also a list of objectives that were just ridiculous. “ The piece should come from a place of love”, “The piece could see to connect us all, and show how we should all care about each other”
I’m not sure where I was suppose to find love in this story. I didn’t know Oscar Grant, so I certainly could not have loved him and for me to somehow feign an affection that didn’t exist seems ingenuine and disrespectful. I am also not sure how Oscar Grant should be used to make us all feel connected and care for one another. There are a lot of deep seated reason that people of color are predominantly the victims of police brutality. There are also a lot of reasons that justice is rarely served in these circumstances. I feel pretty confident that those reasons are not a simple lack of care for one another. There didn’t seem to be any interest in confronting the issues or affecting the audience (of the murals) and I had no interest in doing what was starting to feel like a big elaborate inaffectual movie poster.
So I quit the project.