‘When They See Us’ Captures the Injustices of Black Youth

Korey Wise walking through the crowd at the Bernhard Center.

On Sept. 26, Korey Wise, the oldest of the Central Park Five, came to the Bernhard Center on campus to talk about his experience of that brutal night in 1989. Wise was tried and sentenced as an adult out of the rest of the four boys. He was sentenced to 5 to 15 years, but ended up serving 12 years. Currently, Wise is known to be an activist who advocates for criminal justice reform where he travels around the U.S. educating others about wrongful convictions and unjust incarceration. 

The limited-series show, ‘When They See Us,’ is directed by award-winning filmmaker Ava DuVernay. Emmy-winning actor Jharrel Jerome plays Korey Wise, Asante Blackk plays Kevin Richardson, Caleel Harris plays Antron McCray, and Marquis Rodriguez plays Raymond Santana. These five actors and Ava DuVernay helped bring the Central Park Five’s voices to watchers and listeners around the world. DuVernay watched over Wise and the other men as a mentor who wanted to bring their story to the spotlight. It is incredibly important for this generation who grew up in the age of technology to recognize the brutal consequences of being a person of color in today’s America. Seeing the struggle of their fight first-hand should be a shock to viewers, but in a good way. This way, we can see how corrupt our justice system is. The fight for justice does not stop here. It is awakened and ever more powerful with the voices of the Central Park Five leading us into a better justice system.

Like many other youth of our generation, this is not the first injustice we have seen happen. This fight for ending the injustices of black and Latino youth did not end with the case of the Central Park Five. In 2014, Michael Brown was shot and killed by police in Ferguson, Missouri. He was only a 18-year-old. Tamir Rice was only a 12-year-old at the time he was shot and killed by police in Cleveland, Ohio. These cases are just the beginning of the fight against wrongful brutality by the police. 

Korey Wise, Yusef Salaam, Antron McCray, Ryamond Santana, and Kevin Richardson were in Manhattan’s Central Park nearby Harlem. Along with the boys, were other groups of teens who wanted to have fun on a quiet Wednesday night. While the teens were laughing and creating noise in Central Park, others went a little too far with their fun by trying to rob runners and cyclists. During this same time of night, Trisha Meili, a caucasian 28-year-old, was taking a night jog through the park. Hours later, she was found raped and beaten almost to death. She ended her night with a fractured skull and an amount of blood loss that could have been lethal. 

Later that night when the police started investigating, they believed that the teens making noise in the park earlier that night, were the ones who also assaulted Trisha Meili. Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Raymond Santana, and Yusef Salaam were all brought in to be questioned and investigated. Korey Wise came willingly to support his friend Yusef, but was dragged into questioning without knowledge of the attack. From then on, became the night of hell for the five boys being questioned. For hours, the police questioned them without any breaks or remorse for the boys. Upon wanting to go home, the five boys were bullied into writing and/or verbally presenting their supposed confessison of the assault and rape of Meili. 

When brought to trial with their lawyers, the five boys all spoke out that they were coerced and bullied into confessing to the crime by the police who investigated them. Yusef and Antron both received five to 10 years in a youth correctional facility, while Kevin was also tried as a juvenile. Korey, being 16, was tried as an adult and the only one to be sentenced to prison. Years later in 2002, Matias Reyes confessed that he was the one who raped and assaulted Meili. His DNA was found to be a match for the rape and assault and later found that he was a previoulsy convicted murderer and serial rapist. Unfortunately, because of the statute of limitations deadline, Reyes could not be charged with the crime. Still, the five boys were void of all charges and released of their wrongful convictions. Today, we see these five boys portrayed on television as victims of police brutality and wrongful convictions.


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