Based on a true story, Ava DuVerney brilliantly shows the struggle of these 5 young boys of colour, and the reality of how unjust the criminal justice system can be.
The Central Park 5- is what they were famously called. I hadn’t actually heard of them at all. I was 5 years old at the time- and still living in Malawi (my birth country). But you don’t need to know about them or have known them to be able to feel the emotions that are thrown to us whilst watching.
On April 1989, Yusef Salaam, 15, Antron McCray, 15, Kevin Richardson, 14, Raymond Santana Jr 14 and Korey Wise, 16, were sentenced for the brutal rape of a white woman in New York’s Central Park. A Crime they did not commit.
A 4 part series on Netflix, I had the intention of only watching one a day, I ended up watching all 4 throughout the night, and Evan after watching it, I couldn’t get myself to sleep.
The series captures the boys lives from the very beginning, it covers their arrests, the interrogation, the detention, their lives within the jail community, and trying to live with the stigma whilst out into their own communities and the backlash they face. Each boy faced between 5-13 years in jail and when realeased they had lost there childhood within an institution.
Appropriately called “When they see Us” to emphasise that these boys- as well as general boys or any person of colour is seen in the eyes of others. It also highlights the role of the mass media, in encouraging this view, if not adding to the fuel of its consumer.
Ava in this series is brutal in the way she shows the injustice the boys faced- yet in the interview with Oprah Winfrey we are told that she omitted a large part of the boys (now men) lives- as it was something the viewers wouldn’t be able to face. I can’t Evan imagine what this is. As watching this broke me.
I cried for these boys, I’m still crying for these men. I’m in awe of how they Evan came out of it alive and how they are carrying on.
The torture they went through, the brutality, especially Korey- who till the end remained firm in not pleading guilty, although he was already paying for the price of something he hadn’t done, is unimaginable and so admirable.
Seeing the men on Oprah broke me more- it put a face to the series. I can’t switch off because it happened. It’s real, and the worst is- it’s probably still happening today.
Justice is served, a little to late in my eyes. When the actual rapist confesses to the crime. The Central Park 5 are now “The Exonerated 5” a better deserved name by far. Yet it’ll never change the fact that they lost their childhood. Their traumas will stay will them forever.
I have so much anger, I have so much anxiety, I have so much hurt- yet all I did was watch a series. These men lived it, and yet they compose themselves with the utmost humility and respect.
I recommend viewing this to each and every person, it has lessons for all of us.
If you have watched it- I would love your thoughts.
Love and regards
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