On April 19, 1989, five Black and Latino youngsters from New York City experienced something that most will never experience in their lifetime. A day of intentional fun and enjoyment, turned into the worst day of their lives, and could have possibly been the end of their lives.
The Central Park Five were accused of the assault and rapping of a female jogger in the historic, Central Park in Manhattan, New York. This case you could say was one of the premiere cases of the decade and century, leading into the ’90s, as it caught the attention of America within the news and media as one of the most horrific crimes to take place in history. (From left for right) Yusef Salaam, Kevin Richardson, Raymond Santana, Korey Wise and Antron McCray (not pictured) were the 5 young boys, ranging from the ages of 14-16, that were charged for committing this crime and were sentenced to between 5 – 10 and 5-15 years in prison. This case had all of New York and America shook and frightened out of their minds, but not as much as the five innocent boys that were unlawfully framed with this crime, which they had not committed. Over 24 hours of intense interrogations, being manipulated by detectives and police officers, even being physically assaulted by them all took place to these 5 children, which forced them into admitting to something that they did not do. Imagine being a child, not knowing much about the law or your rights, and suddenly being accused of the rape of a grown woman, whom you never knew existed. What is a child to do to in that instance, what can they say, who can they trust?
I must say that The Central Park Five Documentary created by Ken Burns, Sarah Burns and David McMahon has to be one of the most powerful and heart-wrenching films that a person could ever see. The judicial and social lynching of these five young boys, now men, still blows my mind even as all 5 of them have been exonerated since 2002. Interestingly enough, I was just a bundle of joy in my mother’s womb when all of this occurred, not being born until the later part of 1989; it is obvious that I would not remember this case. But feelings are a universal part of human nature, and the emotions that I felt, or that I always feel when I find out about stories like this and others where Black and Latino people constantly suffer at the hands of American society really angers me and has for years, innately. It’s sad to think that there are people in high societal positions that will sacrifice another human being’s life and dignity to gain something for themselves. What a world we live in.
But enough about the negative, because there were many positives that I took away from watching this film; primarily, things that I learned from these men. The spirits of these five gentlemen throughout the years have been broken, they have been hurt, and they even lost their childhood, but there is STILL a great amount of sincere innocence and humility that shines from them. Kind of like that of child, ironically. They definitely want justice to be served and they want the world to know the ultimate truth, but they still remain humble and grateful for all of the support that they are receiving and for being able to be alive today. That really stuck with me, because you automatically would assume that these men would be wholeheartedly bitter and mad at the world, and although they have a right to be, they are still open to being in the public and educating the people about their trials and tribulations in hopes that they can help and inspire someone else. That is a BLESSING, if I ever have received one.
So in closing, I would like to say that I need for all of you to watch this documentary and pass it on. Discuss it, share your opinions and ideas with your friends and comrades and help these men receive the justice that they deserve, and also the respect and love that they need and deserve. This case and film has been sweeping the world by storm, since the film’s premiere in November of last year and last Tuesday on PBS, and it is our job to fight this injustice with them in any way we can. Check out the many links below that will direct you to various online sources that will show you how you can help.
Thank you Korey, Raymond, Yusef, Richard and Antron. You all are SPECIAL, shining beings of light and strength and we thank you for carrying on and inspiring the world.