In 1989 we were all held captive by the news of the brutality of New York 5, 4 Black and 1 Hispanic who were accused of gang raping and beating a young white woman who went for a jog in New York’s Central Park shortly before 9 p.m. Hours later she was found near death. In a coma, with 75 percent blood loss, a fierce blow to the head and severe exposure, doctors at Metropolitan Hospital worried that this young woman might not survive. The story seized the headlines, not only in New York, but around the world.
Well it wasn’t long before we heard of the roaming gangs of teenagers whose only goal is to wreak havoc on those they randomly chose, called wilding. A gang/group of Black teenage boys were quickly picked up and questioned without parents or guardians present. Unfortunately, these boys were treated like most of our young black males are treated today. They were held for hours, no water, no food and no calls home. They were questioned until they gave the police what they wanted, a confession. These boys were tried and convicted. Sounds familiar, yes, just like the Scottsboro boys!! History repeating it’s self. At this point, I would elaborate on the Scottsboro boys in caseyou didn’t know but I’m sure you do know the story and probably seen the movie. There are not many racial incidents America is willing to record as part of African American history but the Scottsboro boys was. Now, Ken Burns created the film “The Central Park Five” in partnership with his daughter Sarah and her husband.
The five teenagers from Harlem, ranging in age 14 years old to 16 years old, who happened to be running around Central Park with a couple dozen troublemakers that night: Antron McCray (15), Kevin Richardson(14), Raymond Santana, Korey Wise(16) and Yusef Salaam(15). They easily became scapegoats for this crime. These Black teenage boys didn’t have a chance. Those of us who watched as these boys were railroaded into a prison cell with confessions spilling from their own mouths now feel guilty that such an injustice could have happened. But here again we have scenario of a white woman being raped and beaten unconscious and unable to remember anything. The heart of this white nation ached for her and it sent fear into the hearts of every Black mother, don’t let them chose my son for this crime.
Unfortunately for these teenagers the contradictory confessions and timeline disparities didn’t matter; neither did the fact that none of their DNA was found at the scene. The teenagers didn’t even know where in Central Park the attack took place. Serial rapist Matias Reyers confessed 13 years after the Central Park rape and was a DNA match. His confession set the boys now men free in 2002.
Ken Burns, known for such television documentaries and mini-series as National Parks: America’s Best Idea, The Civil War, Jazz, Baseball, The War and Prohibition. I’m sure the partnership with daughter Sarah Burns who wrote the book (The Central Park Five) and her husband filmmaker David McMahon have produced a fantastic film. In 2003, the men filed a civil suit in the Southern District seeking $50 million each for malicious prosecution and civil rights violations that the city has fought ever since. So, the city of New York may want to subpoena parts of the film because of the law suit. Burns has already said he will fight it!
I employ you to support this film by being a witness to the injustice that is part of our African American experience and vow to protest New York City lack of compassion toward those they have treated miserably and inhumanly. These were children, black children, they put in prison.