“When They See Us” (Pt. 1 of 2): Why You MUST See It (No Spoilers)

Since my social media postings about how important it is that we all watch this movie, I’ve received quite a bit of feedback with opinions flying across the spectrum.  Some people have seen it and are still trying to process what they witnessed.  Many (like me) vividly remember the incident from back when it occurred and were shocked about all that they didn’t know before this point.  Quite a few are “committed to watch it but afraid” as a good friend put it.  Finally, there are those that don’t plan to watch it for one of two reasons: either they can’t stand the thought of viewing depictions of real life (racial) injustice, or they think it’s just a “black” story and not applicable to them and theirs.

My friends, no matter the reason, make no mistake: in these times, with this current administration and considering all police-related tragedies in recent years (primarily involving minorities and youth), YOU CAN NOT IGNORE IT!

“When They See Us” is a 4-part Netflix biography that tells the story of the teenagers formally known as the historic “Central Park 5”: Raymond Santana (14), Kevin Richardson (14), Antron McCray (15), Yusef Salaam (15) and Korey Wise (then known as Kharey Wise) (16).

The Central Park 5 (L-R): Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Raymond Santana, Yusef Salaam and Kharey Wise

Five young, black teenagers on trial for activities that occurred on the evening of April 19, 1989 in New York’s Central Park, infamously known for the violence that occurs within (in 1990 alone, 368 serious crimes were reported, ranging from mugging to sexual assaults to grand larceny to murder).  In the course of one night, 8 victims sustained injuries from various attacks; most notably Trisha Meili, a 28-year-old white female jogger who was viciously beaten, raped and left for dead.  As many as 24 people were apprehended during and after the course of the night, but ultimately, Raymond, Kevin, Yusef, Anton and Korey were taken into custody.

While in custody, they were interrogated, physically accosted and coerced into confessions without legal representation or guardian/parental accompaniment and later brought to trial.

It’s the story of the methods employed by law enforcement to place said teens in an incriminating light.  Of a prosecution team, serving to achieve occupational and/or political gain through their conviction.  Of a community, coming together to defend the innocence of the Central Park 5. 

It’s the story of the lives of the five accused, forever changed both during and after the verdict.

It’s the story of a nation, torn apart by anger and confusion, migrating to opposing sides.  A nation guided by a portrait, painted with biased brush strokes by the artistic hands of corrupt law enforcement, an unjust judicial system and misinforming press.  Remember, in 1989, there was no internet.  No social media. Only the brief mentions you received in the local newspaper or nightly news, which wasn’t much, the further away you lived.

But most important, it’s a story about me.  It’s a story about you.  It’s a story about my sons, OUR sons, who live in a world where the media, political system and brandishers of the badge can destroy our lives in an instant, all the while CALLOUSLY dismissing it all as “justified” or mere happenstance when they so desire.

Laced with superb acting by an all-star cast, extraordinary cinematography, incredible direction and an emotionally captivating soundtrack, this is an absolute “must see”.  It’s a talking point for all groups.  Discussion for the Executive, Legislative and Judicial systems, for law enforcement, for churches, for colleges, for high and elementary schools, for communities, for families and anyone else claiming to be concerned about the future of our nation.  It’s a reason to come together and break bread at the proverbial dinner table and compare notes, understand our diverse lifestyles and opinions of all that make up this so-called great melting pot.

Yes, you may very well be angry. You may shake your head in disgust.  You may cry. But I promise you, you WILL be moved.  Hopefully, you will be reminded that our system is a broken one and in desperate need of repair.  Hopefully you will speak out.  Act.  Vote.  Hopefully you will encourage others to stand with you in the position that this was never and IS NOT acceptable and it’s time for change.

“We will NOT stand for impartiality and imbalance another moment!”  Try it.  Say it.

Come together and watch.  Take 4 nights (or two, since they’re only about 75 minutes each – I watched it all in one night, in addition to the follow-up special).  This is not for African Americans, it’s for ALL Americans. Take a break from “Netflix And Chill”.  It’s time for “Netflix And FEEL” and maybe “Netflix And HEAL”.  If you say you don’t want to be depressed or that this doesn’t apply to you, I’m speaking to YOU more than anyone else!  Ignorance and denial in many ways serve as silent consent for this societal barbarism to continue unchecked and unstopped.

And when you finish, be sure to watch the interview of the real members of the Central Park 5, along with the actors who portrayed them and director Ava DuVernay on “Oprah Winfrey Presents: When They See Us Now”, also on Netflix (which will load/play automatically after Episode 4).

Once you’ve composed yourself, feel free to come back and leave a comment after you’ve seen it.  If you’ve already seen it, leave one now.  Tell me how you feel.  Let me know how it’s moved you.  How it changed your life or perception of reality.  Let’s talk, and yes, let’s DO.

THIS BLOG TO BE CONTINUED in “When They See Us” (Pt 2 of 2): Now That You’ve Seen It”, my take on what happened, speaking as a member of the general public back then and a father, today.

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Feel free to spread the word by sharing with those who can benefit from this.
Let me know if there’s any particular subject that you’d like me to cover in future posts!

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