Like a majority of things on Netflix, I found out about When They See Us via Twitter. Many people were discussing how well made it was, how much they hated Linda Fairstein and how it is only one of many situations that series how flawed our justice system is. There were also a large majority of people sharing how they would not be watching due to already being exasperated with the amount of stories plaguing our community daily. With all that being said, When They See Us is extremely effective at depicting the facts about the entire ordeal both inside and outside the courtroom and causes the viewer to never forget the names of the Central Park Five.
Beginning the same way any well done period piece does, When They See Us drops us in late 80s and early 90s New York with the sounds and looks of the time. Eric B and Rakim and Public Enemy blasted as we see the boys out like they would be any other time. These few minutes are the most lighthearted of the series and show how their innocence was stripped away from them. As I watched and heard the sirens my heart literally sped up as I knew what was going to happen but I didn’t want it to. This was one of the many moments where the actors shined. The anguish, fear and sadness they expressed with their faces and voices were gut wrenching as a night that was seemingly normal took the worst possible turn. And the interrogation scenes including the scenes where they were told what to say…if you can watch them more than once more power to you.
The courtroom scenes did two things: They showed how frightened the parents of the boys were and they showed how the lack of evidence should made this case open and shut. Seeing the lawyers go back and forth with their points was very well done, especially when the people went to the witness stand. The scenes of the boys seeing/calling their families while in jail provided a small sense of happiness. They kept the conversation simple by asking them what they were eating and how they were doing. Seeing the boys smile was a great feeling too. In a creative sense the way the time progression was shown for Raymond as his brother went from a newborn baby to a toddler to a young boy was interesting as it was heartbreaking to see how many years had gone by.
Seeing the boys all grown up and trying to re-enter society was yet another harsh reality of situations that happen every day. Raymond saw no other option other than dealing after being laid off from the one job that actually accepted him. Antron also picked up a job however the woman in his life referred to him as an “inmate” during a argument. All five men suffered from the situations of their past and those around them who continued to hang it above their heads.
All of this ceased when they were exonerated.
At the closing moments of the series we are told what all five men are doing today. This was the perfect way to end the series by not only showing the real people behind the story but also what they did – and are doing – to advance the community. Just this past week they were awarded the Roger Baldwin Courage Award which was presented to them by Michael B. Jordan. This is just one of many occasions to come that the men will be honored for their bravery as more and more people are touched by their story. While they will always be defined by their past, they are also taking steps to help shape the future for the better too, in hopes of preventing another horrific situation like this from happening again.
Where Are They Now?
Raymond Santana Jr. – Raymond used his portion of the settlement money to start his own clothing line called Park Madison NYC. The name comes from his hometown. Currently available are men’s and women’s shirts with a list of the names of all the Central Park Five members. A portion of the proceeds from these sales will go to the Innocence Project which helps those who have been wrongly convicted. There is also a shirt with Raymond’s mugshot on it which he says represents “the ups and downs, the road I traveled , to become the man that I am today.”
Yusef Salaam – Yuseff has become a published author of poetry as well as a public speaker on the subjects of “mass incarceration, police brutality and misconduct, false confessions” and multiple others. He is both an educator and advocator for these policies traveling all over the country to spread the message. He has led workshops and more on these topics and also received the Lifetime Achievement Award from President Barack Obama in 2016.
Korey Wise – Korey established the Korey Wise Innocence Project in 2015 at Colorado Law School. This project analyzes legal cases for wrongful conviction. Korey visits the school regularly.
Kevin Richardson – Kevin has also become an advocate for criminal justice reform and was honored with his high school diploma in 2017 by the Bronx Prep Academy. He currently lives in New Jersey with his wife and two daughters.
Antron McCray – Antron lives with his wife and six children in Georgia. He has preffered to stay out of the spotlight outside of a couple of interviews as he is still dealing with the mental effects of the past.
When They See Us was an exceptionally informative and emotional story. It may be hard to get through but it is worth it because we should be thankful we are aware of the story and it’s not being hidden from history like countless others.