When They See Us: A Review

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Netflix has truly been in their bag as of recently with the many movies and tv shows that they’ve been dropping, however, they’ve recently outdone themselves with the series of “When They See Us”. I won’t lie, before this series I’d never even heard of the Central Park 5, but after this depiction, it hurts me to know about it and know that something so tragic actually happened.

“When They See Us” is a mini-series depicting the case and lives of the Central Park 5. The Central Park 5 were 5 young teenage boys who were coerced by New York policemen and detectives to admit to raping a white woman in Central Park. Four out of five of the young boys were sent to juvenile, with Korey Wise being the only one sent to prison.

The miniseries has been able to raise awareness in the aspects of injustice in the courts and prison system. Directed by Ava DuVernay, she was able to take the stories of these five young men and make it into something that not only shed a light on issues that we’re facing today, but it was of a story that had already been pushed to the back of the shelf.

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Raymond Santana, Yusef Salaam, Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, and Korey Wise were all wrongfully convicted in 1989 of raping Trisha Ellen Meili in Central Park late at night. What I absolutely loved about this series was how it was broken down. It wasn’t your typical 8- 16 episode first season series that you might get hooked on Netflix. However, it’s what they call a limited series and only consisted of four episodes. It’s broken down to focus on the crime, the trial, their time in prison, the aftermath of what life looks like with their families and coming out of prison, and an episode dedicated solely to Korey Wise and his time in prison.

The story in itself is disgusting when you think about it. To know that these men suffered for years in cells that they had no business being in is absolutely ridiculous. It makes you think about where we are today on where we stand with our justice system. In the end, you may think their ending was a happier one since they were exonerated, and in 2014 settled with the city for $41 million dollars and also received a settlement in 2016 from New York State for $3.9 million, but how does money even compare to the trauma, embarrassment, and pain that they were put through?

The actors in the series are ones to be commended though. They took the roles and truly told the story. “When They See Us” took you to a dark place, but reeled your mind in to realize that this is the reality. This was a true story. This was true life. Besides examining the discrepancies in the American justice system, we’re examining how life looks being black in America. The night of this crime and then on, it’s obvious that there was no real investigation done, but rather it came from a place of comfortability and laziness. They were around, so it was easier just to convict and to have another conviction under their belt. This series takes you on a rollercoaster of emotions. You live every emotion through the screen with them. You see their pain, you feel their pain. You feel when they were happy, you feel when they were sad, you feel when they were angry and frustrated and you feel the relief when it was over, however you feel the struggle of what life was like after.

For anyone that hasn’t, I highly recommend to go on the journey that is this series. I implore you to be brave, grab your tissues and really see and feel the story of the Central Park 5. After watching, I will then implore you to reflect and think. Think about what it is you saw and what you felt. It can be hard, but it’s worth it. It’s crazy to think that this is actual history and this was a reality, it’s worth discovering and delving into though.

by Nia I. Williams