April 20, 2014

About Cephus

Oprah Winfrey Episode with Michael B. Jordan and Oscar Grant

Fruitvale Station Star Michael B. Jordan: “Black Males, We Are America’s Pit Bulls”

Michael B. Jordan, an actor who got his start when he was just 12 years old, is earning rave reviews for his portrayal of Oscar Grant III in Fruitvale Station, a film that tells the true story of a young father shot to death by a transit officer at an Oakland, California, Fruitvale Station subway stop on January 1, 2009. Watch as he shares the challenges of playing a real person. Plus, Michael explains the relationship with Oscar Grant Family.

MSNBC interviews Oscar Grant family for episode Caught On Tape 11/17/2013

Oscar Grant Foundation giving in the Community

So thankful and grateful that Oscar was about helping people. So today the Oscar Grant Foundation will be donating cook dinners to families

Katie Couric “Race In America”

From the “stop and frisk” debate to Oscar Grant’s Mother and Uncle to Travyon Martin’s parents who share their heartbreak with Katie, it’s one of the most important conversations we’ve had on the show. Join us along with Tavis Smiley and “What Would You Do?” host John Quiñones for an honest, revealing look at how race has divided our country. Plus, find out how to talk to your kids about race.

Family Tribute To Oscar Grant

Our Family Tribute to Oscar Grant Pt1– Family

Our Family Tribute to Oscar Grant Pt2– Oscar Mother Wanda, Oscar Fiancee Sophina, Oscar Daughter Tatiana

Tatiana Reads Letter to her Daddy Oscar Grant

Wanda Johnson Congressional Caucus w/Congresswoman Barbra Lee

Congresswoman Barbra Lee

Thank you to all of my colleagues for coming out the screening of Fruitvale Station last night. It was an honor to have ‪#‎OscarGrant‬’s mother, Wanda Johnson, join us in the theater; her courage is unstoppable. It was so humbling to watch the film with her and other Members of Congress. It’s time that everyone watches this film about ‪#‎Oakland‬, ‪#‎injustice‬, and ‪#‎racism‬ in this country.

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The Takeway Radio Show Hosted by John Hockenberry

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On the evening of December 31, 2008, a 22-year-old black man in the Bay Area of California wished his mother a happy birthday, kissed his daughter good night, and went out to celebrate New Year’s Eve with his girlfriend.

He rode the Bay Area Rapid Transit train, or BART, as it’s called in California. There was an altercation on the train. And then, unexpectedly, the unarmed man was shot and killed by a white BART police officer.

Such is the plot of a new film in theaters nationwide today, called “Fruitvale Station.” Based on a true story, it stars Michael B. Jordan, as Oscar Grant, the victim of the shooting.

Cephus “Uncle Bobby” Johnson is the uncle of the late Oscar Grant, and founder of the Oscar Grant Foundation, which assists families who’ve been the victims of gun violence. He talks with the Takeaway about his late nephew, the film, and what he messages he hopes viewers take away from “Fruitvale Station.”

Below is the official statement from the BART Communications Department:

A young man lost his life because of the actions of a former BART police officer and BART took responsibility as a civil matter for the terrible tragedy that occurred on the platform of the Fruitvale BART Station on the morning of January 1, 2009. It is heartbreaking to us that no one can change that sad day and we continue to deeply regret the loss of Mr. Grant’s life. While we cannot alter the past, we immediately began to see this tragedy as a catalyst to change the future of BART, our customers and the communities we serve.

While BART continues to experience unprecedented success as the Bay Area’s premier public transit system, this tragedy has justifiably made us take a hard look at ourselves to understand how we can prevent a tragedy like this from occurring again.

We brought in two firms to conduct independent review of our police department and have used this information learned to make a number of major improvements to our policing services. As a result we increased both the scope and amount of officer training including increased firearm, Taser and cultural diversity training. We have also implemented independent citizen oversight of our police force and empowered an independent Police Auditor.

From the first day, we expressed our regret and sympathies to the family of Oscar Grant and to this day our hearts continue to pour out to them.

We believe that overwhelmingly BART police and BART staff are good and dedicated public servants who are desirous of serving the needs of the communities through which BART travels. It was extremely unfortunate that it took this tragic loss of life for us to reexamine and improve critical parts of our mission in serving our public. We want to assure the public that under the leadership of Police Chief Kenton Rainey we are determined to earn the trust and confidence of our communities and customers by meeting the high standards they expect and deserve.

Guests: Cephus Johnson
Produced by: Kristen Meinzer
Editors: T.J. Raphael

“Wanda Johnson- Oscar Grant”, “Sybrina Fulton- Trayvon Martin”


CBS News “Fruitvale Station”: Recreating a tragic loss of a life

(CBS News) A new movie based on a true story takes a look at a controversial shooting four years ago that still has echoes today. Erin Moriarty of “48 Hours” has the story behind the film:

Every day, 16,000 riders run through this Bay Area Rapid Transit, or BART, station in Oakland, Calif.

The sign says “Fruitvale.” But there’s another name that hangs heavy over the platform: Oscar Grant III.

Wanda Johnson, Grant’s mother, showed Moriarty a favorite photo of her “baby boy”: “His smile speaks to everybody. His smile speaks to me.”

In the early morning hours of New Year’s Day 2009, 22-year-old Grant and some friends were on the BART train returning from celebrating in San Francisco. There was a report of a fight, and when the train pulled into the Fruitvale Station, BART police started pulling Oscar and his friends off the train.

Other passengers pulled out their cell phones, and recorded video of what happened next: “In the video I see that there’s a officer out with a Taser walking back and forth, cussing, telling people to get off the eff-ing train,” Johnson recalled. “And then he grabs one of the boys and takes him off the train. He escorts a couple more off the train and he throws them down on the ground.”

One of them is an unarmed Oscar Grant. A BART officer is on top of Grant, trying to handcuff him.

“And as he has his knee in Oscar’s neck, Mehserle, he pulls out his gun and he shoots him,” Johnson said. “And everybody [goes], ‘Why would you shoot him?’ ”

Transit officer Johannes Mehserle shot Grant point-blank in the back.

Oscar Grant died in the hospital seven hours later.
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Actor Michael B. Jordan saw the cell phone video online.

“I just remember being at home on the computer, watching the video,” Jordan said, “and just being, like, in awe — ‘Wow, it happened again.’ You know, African American kid, a person of color, being beaten, shot, harassed — this prejudice, the racism, all of that.”

Young Oakland filmmaker Ryan Coogler saw the video, too: “I remember the first time seeing it, just having an empty feeling in my stomach.

“And Oscar, being my age, looking like me, wearing the same type of clothes that I wear, his friends looking like my friends — it really triggered all kinds of emotions, from sadness, to anger, to a sense of helplessness.”

The streets of Oakland erupted. Officer Mehserle claimed that instead of pulling out his Taser, he mistakenly grabbed his gun, and fired the fatal shot. Charged with murder, Mehserle was convicted of involuntary manslaughter, and served less than a year in jail.

Coogler saw a story he wanted to tell in a movie — not so much about the shooting. He wanted to talk about Oscar Grant himself.

“He had made some mistakes in his life,” Coogler said. “But he also had some great love in his life, very great positives in his life as well. To be honest, he was a person, just like you, just like me.”

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But to make his film — simply called “Fruitvale Station” — Coogler had a lot of people to convince . . . starting with Oscar’s mother.

Johnson said she was “Very hesitant.”

Coogler had never actually made a feature film before. But his student films, at USC and elsewhere, had attracted admirers like actor Forrest Whitaker, who signed on as producer.

Whitaker convinced Oscar’s mother to say yes.

Then Coogler picked Michael B. Jordan to play Oscar, after seeing him on TV in “The Wire” and “Friday Night Lights.”

‘Fruitvale Station’ stops achingly close to reality- Family speaks

Director Ryan Coogler chose to film in the actual locations where Oscar Grant lived and died.

Screen Shot 2013-07-18 at 12.29.00 AMSAN FRANCISCO — The Fruitvale Station stop on this city’s BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) system, is an unexceptional place. Stark and sterile, it is familiar to commuters as well as any traveler who has taken public transportation from Oakland International Airport into town.

And yet what happened there in the first hours of an otherwise celebratory New Year’s Day 2009 — the shooting death of an unarmed reveler, Oscar Grant III, 22, by a BART officer who confused his Taser for a loaded gun — lit a fuse of anger, frustration and ultimately hope that has stretched all the way south to Hollywood.

Fruitvale Station, the just-released debut feature from 27-year-old director/writer Ryan Coogler, has already garnered critical buzz for the filmmaker and his stars, Michael B. Jordan as Grant and Oscar winner Octavia Spencer as his mother, Wanda Johnson. But for Coogler and the tight-knit group behind this movie, true rewards lie beyond awards.

“One of the most powerful things on the planet is human thought, and art can inspire that,” says Coogler, a Bay Area native who was home on Christmas break from film school at the University of Southern California when Grant was killed. “My mission was to generate empathy for someone people had never met.”

Coogler sets out to do that by focusing on the last day of Grant’s life, one that was filled with dualities. He had served time in San Quentin for drug dealing, but upon being released was intent on going straight. In one telling scene, Grant is shown both pleading with a hint of menace for a second chance at a grocery store job, and helping a stranger with a fish-fry dilemma by putting his grandmother on the phone with cooking advice.

REVIEW: Station is timely, tragic and riveting
STORY: No stopping Octavia Spencer in Fruitvale Station
MORE: The help behind Fruitvale Station
VIDEO: Spencer and Jordan talk Fruitvale

“He was a layered guy, different when he was around different people,” says Jordan, 26, a Newark native who spent time with Grant’s East Bay family and friends for the role. “He was caught in a juggling act, trying to make everybody happy and not keeping up.”

Jordan hopes that moviegoers leave the theater “simply valuing life a little more,” he says. “Maybe they’ll ask themselves, ‘How can I be a better person?’ Will it stop injustice? No. But maybe it can make things get better.”

Coogler’s road to Fruitvale started the night of the shooting, which was captured on smartphones by BART riders and yielded exceedingly tense and tragic footage that the director chose to open the movie.

Grant and his girlfriend, with whom he had a daughter, joined friends for a trip into San Francisco to watch fireworks when an altercation with neighborhood toughs led to the confrontation with officers.

Grant was face down with his hands behind his back when he was shot by officer Johannes Mehserle, who was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter and served 11 months before being released. After the fateful shot, the victim was heard to say, “You shot me! I got a 4-year-old daughter.” He died hours later.

“When I heard, I was shocked, angry and sad, and immediately knew I wanted to make a movie about this,” Coogler says softly. “We have seen this again with Trayvon (Martin, who was killed by George Zimmerman in Florida). Someone’s character instantly goes on trial in the media. They’re either a martyr and a saint, or everything they ever did was wrong. The truth is more complicated.”

Coogler’s USC short films got him an audience with Forest Whitaker and his production company, and before he knew it the modest project was greenlit and included an acting and producing assist from Spencer. “She just made everyone around her better, with her warmth, talent and smarts,” says Coogler.

Spencer was among those who made a strong impression on Grant’s mother, who had consistently rebuffed filmmakers, fearful that a project would only muddy her son’s memory.

But, Johnson says, after “praying on what I heard from Ryan and Forest, I said yes. They wanted to humanize Oscar. To show that he was important to somebody, to his mother and his girlfriend and his daughter. He was someone’s son, someone’s father.”

For Johnson, it was important to show her son struggling with life. “If you’re brown or black, it can be hard to overcome some of life’s obstacles,” she says. “By showing that Oscar was trying to do the right thing, maybe it’ll give other young men and women who are having a tough time hope that they can make it.”

Cephus Johnson
Screen Shot 2013-07-18 at 12.27.54 AMOscar Grant’s uncle Cephus Johnson.(Photo: Martin E. Klimek, USA TODAY)
Johnson’s brother, Cephus Johnson, who helps run the Oscar Grant Foundation — which provides crisis assistance to the families of those shot by law enforcement — says the simple aim ofFruitvale Stationis “to have you spend a day in Oscar’s shoes. It’s painful to have to re-live (that day through the film), but this is also bigger than Oscar. We hope the movie starts a conversation about profiling (minorities).”

The cast and crew shared the Johnsons’ grief during four nights of principal photography at the Fruitvale Station platform, which BART officials made available to the production.

“I don’t want to ever go up there again,” says Jordan, whose previous roles were in television series such as The Wire, Parenthood and Friday Night Lights.

“The bullet hole (in the platform) was still there when we were filming. My face was on the same floor his was. It was heavy,” he says. “I put my heart and soul into it. One day his daughter (now 9) will watch this.”

Coogler started those nights of filming with a huddle and a moment of silence. “It was emotional for everyone,” he says.

But his quest for authenticity went beyond securing the site of Grant’s shooting. The director also filmed in the hospital waiting room and operating theater where Grant was taken after the incident.

“There’s that moment where (Spencer) has to come in to ID Oscar, and while I was researching for that scene at the hospital, in walked a mother there to ID her son,” he says. “It was a creative choice to be in the real places. There was an energy there, and the actors and crew could feel it.”

Making Fruitvale Station could well stay with some production members long after the film leaves theaters. Jordan says he feels he’ll be “living with Oscar all my life.” And he calls Wanda Johnson his “other mom.”

Johnson laughs when she hears this. “You tell Michael to stay humble,” she says. “I have another son now.”