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Netflix premiered When They See Us, on May 31st. This story based on true events from 1989 was written and directed by Ava DuVernay to describe the injustice of five young boys from Harlem. With just four episodes, she conveyed the time period and torment that shattered the innocence in these young men, and the broken justice system. The Central Park Five case was not commonly discussed, and may not have even been known to this generation. DuVernay broke exposure to these men's stories, and how a night out in Central Park became the worst night of their lives.
The structure of the episodes was vital for the storytelling. The first episode involved their lives before the night stroll, interrogation, and coercing by police. Episode two focuses on the trial and backlash from different communities. Viewers are educated on the involvement by Donald Trump, he invested $85,000 in ads to openly express his want for the death penalty of these young men. All of which were published before any verdict or sentencing was done. We get the behind the scenes perspective of the lawyers and detectives on the case. The police obviously did not have solid timeline that connected the boys to the crime of the jogger, Patricia Meili. The DNA sample of semen did not match any of the boys, but the police were determined to hold the "Central Park Five" accountable for the "monstrous" actions.
The third part to the mini series showed the five incarcerated. Four is juvenile detention centers, and one in Rikers Island after being tried as an adult. All were wrongfully convicted, and Korey Wise, had the least to do with anything that night. We see their progression from young teens into men, and how they transitioned after prison. Ava displayed the difficulties for the men finding employment, and how much this financially, physically, and emotionally impacted their families.
The final installment of the miniseries was by far the most emotional roller coaster—we see Korey's story. He spent almost 14 years in prison. Entering at just 16 years old among murders, rapists, thieves, and plenty other aggressors is unimaginable to anyone at such a young age. He experienced first hand the corruption, and racial profiling within the justice and prison system, and learned to protect himself the hard way. Korey Wise was a target by men testing his toughness, and Nazis avenging the victim. In the one hour and 30 minutes of the episode, we experienced the suffering he went through in the hands of the prison, and solitary confinement was the only thing to ensure his survival. Ava's successful portrayal of Korey's growth from the scared kid to someone who had to learn survival in hell.
This series is a horror for the black community. Something like this is not uncalled for, because it in fact happened in real life. Meanwhile the usual monsters displayed in Friday the 13th, Nightmare on Elm Street, or Halloween in some cases aren't as realistic. Falling victim to the justice system happens way too often that people like myself lose hope in the system altogether. The system only benefits those who are a part of it, not those who are in it, because in reality it is all a business, and keeping those people within it keeps it going. Seeing this story for the first time through the storytelling of Ava is eye opening, and powerful. It is a shame see to the person in the highest level of this country once displayed the largest acts of bigotry, and lack of human decency towards these boys.
Let's not forget at the time they were just boys. Ages 14-16, thinking about nothing more than hanging out with their friends, and school. The world portrayed them as these vicious animals, preying on the poor white woman. Everyone had their presumptions on the case way before it even started, they were guilty as soon as they entered that police station that night. "Boys will be boys" will never apply to black boys, because no matter what they do they're seen as a threat, and it saddens me every time. A story that happened 30 years ago is still relevant today due to the issues discussed. Racial profiling is still prominent in the justice system, and proves daily that America was never really great.