“Where you see wrong or inequality or injustice, speak out, because this is your country. This is your democracy. Make it. Protect it. Pass it on.” – Thurgood Marshall
On May 31st 2019, a miniseries for Netflix was aired. Yes, I am talking about “When They See Us”. This series is very important to me, and it makes me wonder how many people can go through something like this. Tears flowed after watching this series. It made me realize that the issue of injustices and racism in our world are still so relevant. (Read below for the full story…) It seems so unfair that other people who appear to be more powerful than you can destroy your life with perception of what they think is the truth. I truly recommend these four parts for you to watch and observe.
Based On A True Story
After a great amount of investigation, to this day, we know that back in 1989, a group of 30 or more black and latino teenagers gathered in New York City to hang out. They were roaming around in Manhattan’s Central Park looking for mischief (yet the kind that is playful, not necessarily harmful). They were kids and teens afterall.
It was an evening on April 19, 1989 when (coincidentally) a big tragedy did indeed occur. Trisha Meili, a white investment banker who was 28 years old at the time was brutally beaten, raped, and ended up close to death. She is now known as the Central Park Jogger because that evening she was going through the park taking a jog. The problem was that no one knew who it was. Yet, the mainly white police force did round up some of the teens from the group that night for being rowdy. Without conclusive evidence, the crime was pinned on the boys.
The Exonerated Five
The police brought in five suspects. Antron, Kevin, Raymond, Yusef and Korey were very young (14 to 16 years old) at the time and their race was either black or Latino. They were the only boys they could find and accuse from that night, and they didn’t pursue any other leads. Just imagine what everyone was going through. Trisha couldn’t remember a thing and miraculously survived the attack. Simultaneously, the police were brainwashing the boys into confessing for a crime they didn’t commit. The pressure was intense. They were told that if they “said the right things” that they could go home. A few of the child suspects believed the police. So, they said what they were told. The problem was, it wasn’t the truth.
There was extreme pain and anguish on both sides of the story. Everyone wanted justice for Trisha but they also wanted justice for the Exonerated Five. After intense community protesting, the authorities still took matters into their own hands. They feigned an investigation and when they couldn’t find a connection from the crime to the boys, they decided to bribe them into confessing. Years later, the boys spoke up about how the ones in power made them confess. But it was too late.
In December, 1990, the 5 boys were sentenced to 5 to 15 years.
So, who’s the real criminal here?
The True Person Is Found
It’s very amazing how Trisha overcame her experience. She later wrote a book about it (I Am The Central Park Jogger) and became a motivational speaker.
In 2002, with the boys still serving their sentence, the actual person who raped her (named Matias Reyes) confessed and gave details about the crime he did. His DNA matched to the crime. Sadly, he stayed free from charges due to the statute of limitations for the crime.
This led to the five now men’s freedom on December 29, 2002. But they didn’t keep quiet. They fought for justice, had a voice, and told their story. In 2003, Kevin, Raymond and Antron filed a lawsuit against the city of New York for malicious prosecution, racial discrimination, and emotional distress. The fighting lasted about a decade until the case was settled with millions for the boys.
In 2015, Raymond reached out to Ava Duvernay (director of the miniseries) asking her if she would ever consider their story for a movie.
Miniseries Is Born
Before the series premiere, the five boys watched it together for the first time, sharing the emotional experience together.
Imagine spending your final youth years in jail for a crime you didn’t commit. Can you imagine how it feels when everyone looks at you when you wander the streets just because of your skin color?
Or just put yourself in these men’s shoes and meditate for a minute. This world can be very cruel and unfair sometimes. This is why we have to fight and fight until the very end. I hope you can take a bit out of your day to check out this recreation of an actual situation that occurred and catch the series. I also hope that after watching it, you can get the courage to put your head up high and speak up about what’s been bothering you. Step by step you can become better and stronger.
A Personal Note from Me
Personally, growing up I never knew about this and I don’t remember learning about it. Of course this brings up many questions as to why I didn’t know until now, in my adult years? This conversation leads to privilege, oppression, racism, biases, culture, ethnicity, and race discussions. Something I think about more and more surrounding my own life, the life of my clients, my friends, co-workers, and many others. How it has shaped us all and the compassion, understanding, and empathy I try to demonstrate, show, and express in my life.
I want to place this information here, to bring awareness, for people to start healthy conversations, to get your brain to start thinking maybe in a different way than it has, for the heart to feel things that maybe it has not before, and to just take it in and sit with it.
It’s these type of series that really get to me and opens up my eyes to reality. My door will always be open to you or someone that you know who is going through something, anything. You can always contact me and schedule an appointment.