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DuVernay’s “When They See Us”: Seeing the Truth About Justice




by G. Brown

Director Ava DuVernay has people everywhere talking.   They’re raving over her Netflix series “When They See Us” which premiered over the weekend.

The series is a retelling of the case of the Central Park Five…a story told over and over by countless journalists around the country.  Yet, many people are hearing the truth about the injustice of the case for the first time ever.

In 1989,  a White female jogger was brutally attacked and raped in Central Park.  The 28-year-old victim was attacked so viciously she lingered in a coma for 12 days.  The tragedy of the attack didn’t end with that poor victim.  Five boys ages 14 – 16 were arrested in the case that would later be dubbed The Central Park Five.

It was a horrible crime that left even a big city like NYC that had seen it all in utter horror.   In 1990, the four African Americans and one Hispanic male were tried in two separate trials with two separate juries.  They were convicted and sentenced to five to 15 years in prison.  It seemed justice had been served until 2002 when a convicted murderer and serial rapist confessed to attacking the jogger.  DNA evidence confirmed Matias Reyes’ confession and he offered further proof by revealings facts about the crime that were never made public and only the attacker would know.  Even though Reyes who was already serving a life sentence said he acted alone, investigators still tried to stand by their arrests and the convictions of the five youths.

The Central Park Five sued NYC after serving years behind bars for a crime they never committed.  The case was settled in 2014 for $41 million…an additional lawsuit was filed seeking more than $50 million.

The Central Park Five has long been an incendiary topic in NYC.  Many minorities saw believed the young men were forced to confess to a crime they didn’t commit.  Many Whites saw them as animals and refused to accept their innocence even after a convicted rapist confessed.  One of the most vocal in the case was then businessman Donald Trump who reportedly spent $85,000 on full-page newspaper ads calling for their executions.

DuVernay’s Netflix series is opening people’s eyes…many don’t like what they see.


What people are seeing now is truth…about the justice system, injustice for people of color and systemic racism in the place we call home.  People thought they thought they knew all the facts about the story especially since it was so heavily covered in the media.  The problem is the media was part of the problem presenting biased stories that convicted the teens before they ever got to a courtroom.  The media was just as complicit in convicting the young men as the police, lawyers and justice system.

“When They See Us” is powerful and impactful.  It is a heartbreaking story that is hard to watch, but one you can not afford to miss.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

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    Chago Wilson

    June 3, 2019 at 6:33 pm

    The actions on the part of trump are more than sufficient proof that he should never have been allowed to sit in the oval office! Anyone who cannot grasp a simple concept like innocent until proven guilty, is most certainly incapable and incompetent to deal with the complex issues of being president!

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