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Review: Fruitvale Station and Coogler’s Portrayal of a Human

By Chloe Herring | July 30th, 2013 |


In a debut feature-length film, director and Bay Area-native Ryan Coogler shows how you get into the head of a mercurial, misunderstood black man: by spending a day in his shoes. And maybe his independent film Fruitvale Station doesn’t exactly opportune the audience a gamut of understanding into every black male’s mentality; but it does give a gracious glimpse into the affectionate bonds and touching aspirations as well a grim view into the frustrations and aimless decisions and that make up the man, but nonetheless take no bearing on an incident that tragically claimed the life of Oscar Grant.

Fruitvale Station, produced by Forrest Whittaker and Nina Yang Bongiovi, does not shy away from controversy as it opens with 2009 New Year’s Day footage of train station police officers battering a darkly clothed man. A crowd yells and pleads in protest for the detained individuals. And then one singular gun shot.

Michael B. Jordan (The Wire, Friday Night Lights), plays Oscar Grant who was fatally shot in the back by a police officer in 2009 at stop on the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) station after returning from a San Francisco firework show.

Fruitvale Station captures the essence of Oscar’s personality through his interactions. Jordan’s character will capture audiences who will relate to his aspirations to do better, the purpose that his daughter establishes to his life, the tension, trust and love for his girlfriend, and the merry social outing he shares with friends.

Moved along by Oscar’s phone activity, the too-literal on-screen text messages end with the culmination of planned New Year’s Eve celebrations. The film, following a striking rendition of the immediate interactions leading up to Oscar’s death, successfully amplifies the emotions of those individuals closest to him: his mother played by Octavia Spencer, his girlfriend played by Melonie Diaz, and his precious daughter Tatiana who is played by Ariana Neal.

His humor, sentimental moments shared with his family and child, and even his questionable choices leave the impression that Oscar is only human. But those same moments that make him human will tear at the heart of those who understand his death avoidable, unnecessary, unfair.

Director Ryan Coogler demonstrates serious potential for future projects with this film. Fruitvale Station sometimes delicately, at other times raucously but always thoughtfully portrays the day of internal and intimate battles, the struggles and triumphs of Oscar Grant. Coogler was likely touched by the tragedy of Oscar Grant’s death; the impassioned care that he demonstrates in Oscar’s character development is evident, making the film deserving of attention and certainly worth the watch. With his ability to shed comprehensive light on characters, expect powerful work from him in the future.

Interview: Dissecting a Jury

By Chloe Herring | June 28th, 2013 |

With the murder trial of George Zimmerman now underway, there has been a lot of attention not only placed on the prosecution and defendant, but also on the jury listening to their arguments.  Although the identities of the jurors in the case will not be released, we do know some information about the individuals, like that all six of them are women.

Opening statements in the Zimmerman trial began on monday. the jurors from then on faced the task of providing impartial deliberation in this controversial case.

George Zimmerman was charged with the second-degree murder of unarmed 17-year old Trayvon Martin in April 2012.

With that being said, we thought it would be beneficial to bring in an expert on the subject of juries. For some insights, we spoke with UM Law professor Scott Sandby. Sandby graduated from Cornell law school with his juris doctor and serves as the dean’s distinguished scholar at the University of Miami law school. He has contributed research to understanding juries, specifically in trials involving the death penalty. Listen in to the discussion below.

The Weekly Voice, WVUM’s community affairs talk show, airs live Fridays at 10a.m. ET.  


Let’s Talk: Dissecting a Jury by Wvumnews on Mixcloud

MDPD’s Reign of Terror: A Lack of Cultural Understanding?

By Chloe Herring | June 18th, 2013 |

Growing up as the significant elder of two younger brothers, it is striking to see the precautions my parents take to raise the two young, black men even in the 21st century. Even more disturbing is that for the black community there exist a common hyper-awareness of appropriate conduct in the presence of police. There is a universal understanding that black men shouldn’t run anywhere on the street for fear of police suspicion. My mother once told my brother never to believe that in the case of an altercation that police would let him go because he was “a nice kid.”

“They will slam your head on the cop car because you’re practically guilty until proven innocent,” she said. She explained to them, as many people believe, that black men cannot own large or luxury vehicles without the risk of becoming victim to racial profiling. Both of my brothers are under the age of fifteen.

It seemed difficult at first to believe that the police in Miami would engage in blatant, unacceptable, or racially-charged behavior considering the city’s hailed diversity. One of the four-pronged objectives of the Miami-Dade Police Department, according to the department’s government webpage, is to treat all people with respect through demonstrating an “understanding of ethnic and cultural diversity.” In fact, it would be difficult to authentically achieve the three other stated values of integrity, service and fairness without cultural understanding of the county’s diverse communities. However, the MDPD’s recent history of targeting a specific minority population does not uphold the standards they seek to meet.

The MDPD has led a legion of fatal attacks on black men, which may conjure the names of fallen men like DeCarlos Moore, Travis McNeil and Raymond Herrise. The recent arrest of a fourteen-year-old Tremaine McMillian for giving officers “dehumanizing stares” after verbal reprimand, only further validates the racially-charged persecution of black males that seems to be deeply imprinted in the county’s law enforcement agencies.

McMillian was roughhousing with another child on Haulover Beach this May but it was his body language while he was walking away that prompted police to “neutralize the threat” the teen caused by attacking and detaining him. The 2011 death of Raymond Herrise, who fell victim to over one-hundred bullets fired at his vehicle, was induced by what police officers say was a posed threat in a speeding car. Herrise’s car was actually at rest, according to footage from the incident, before several police shot and killed the man and injured four bystanders.

Community outcries of frustration at the MDPD’s questionably racist practices landed the department with a civil-rights investigation conducted by the U.S. Department of Justice late 2011.
But often overlooked by the MDPD’s plausible police stereotyping, a violation of civil rights that is still undergoing examination, is a critical component of the violence that police have taken on the very citizens they seek to protect: fear. A fear, often noted, that is unsupported by physical evidence or substantial reason; a fear that can most easily be described as rooted in an obvious lack of “understanding and cultural diversity.”

The message that the MDPD sends to the black community is hardly one of respect when their services include the scrutiny and persecution of black males.

With populations of racial minorities on the rise, incidents of targeted police brutality need to come to an end. It is impossible, ineffective and ultimately futile for a police force to adequately serve a community that they fail to understand. Officers should be educated on the history of police relationships with black people in efforts to understand the pain that shapes common perception about law enforcement. This is important because the history of police brutality in the black community is not exclusively the story of black people – it is a shared past of both parties. If police officers could first learn about the concerns of the people, then they could take the appropriate steps to actually perform their jobs.

WVUM News Reports: Underage Drinking at UM

By Chloe Herring | September 16th, 2012 |

Many students often joke around about tricking bars and clubs with their fake ID's and boast about getting drunk at hotspots like the Grove. However, underage drinking has become a serious issue at UM and around the nation's universities.

Below, a WVUM investigation:

WVUM News Reports- Underage Drinking and ‘U’ by Wvumnews on Mixcloud