Remembering Oscar Grant

Oscar Grant with his daughter, Tatiana, in 2007


The release of Fruitvale Station in 2013 brought renewed attention to the life and tragic death of Oscar Grant, who was killed by a police officer on New Year's Day in 2009. The film is one of the most devastating I've ever seen. On the fifth anniversary of Oscar's death, his grandmother, Bonnie Johnson, talked to Colorlines about her grandson's personality and the difficulty of living without him:

Oscar called me grandma. And we didn’t have any nickname, I called him Oscar. He was a good grandson. He did a lot of things for me. We’re coming up on five years and it’s a bad time of year. This is a bad time of year because we’re close to the anniversary, and his mother Wanda’s birthday is on the 31st and it happened that very same night. They were here at the house just before they went to San Francisco. It’s a bad time for his mom, Wanda. It just comes back real quick, like no time at all has passed.
[...]
Oscar was very smart. You didn’t have to tell him but one time how to do something and he was just that wise. He was real athletic and into football and basketball. He’d go fishing with his grandfather. Oscar’s grandfather taught him how to bait the hook, and how to fish, and believe it or not, Oscar caught the biggest fish almost all the time. He was close to his grandpa, and after Mr. Johnson had his stroke, Oscar would come in and mow the lawn and do this and that for me. He knew Papa was sick, and wasn’t able to do that. Oscar was allergic to grass but he still would put his mask on and mow the lawn. He was a child that was willing to help his grandparents. He’d come in and say, “Grandma got anything for me to do?” and I say, “Well I can’t think of nothin’.”
[...]
 For the last few years on New Year’s Day I have done nothing much. I stay here and take care of Mr. Johnson. The kids go on and visit the grave, different things like that. I say a prayer for them. And they go up to the grave on his birthday, and they had food up there the last time. They gather ‘round.
A lot of times if my mind really gets to thinking, that’s when I go. They don’t know but I go up and visit Oscar’s gravesite. I drive up the hill and visit the grave. I just kind of think about his life. Usually when I go by myself I wonder. He would be 28, 29 right now and I wonder what he’d have been. Your mind wants to think, what he could have done. I know he would be working with his daughter Taty if he were here. I know that. I think about his life, if he could have just lived a little bit longer. But it wasn’t meant to be.
Read the full article at Colorlines