Written by H. CLENT BOWERS for THE ARTISTS FORUM, MAGAZINE
Edited by Amos White V for THE ARTISTS FORUM, Inc
Photos: KEN BURNS and the film THE CENTRAL PARK FIVE
Copyright 2012: The Artists Forum, Inc. – All Rights Reserved
5 out of 5 stars
KEN BURNS INTERVIEW: THE CENTRAL PARK FIVE
LOS ANGELES, CA (Friday, November 2, 2012) We at The Artists Forum know that the celebration of creation is the cornerstone of all art forms and none more relevant than that of the documentary, our own reflection. One of our great living American documentarians is Ken Burns. He has given us reflections in the past on PBS specials about “American Jazz,” “The Civil Rights Movement,” and the countries “National Parks,” to name a few. This time he, along with his daughter, Sarah Burns, and David McMahon, have once again asked us to take a good look at our behavior towards one another and hopefully come to correcting our wrongs post haste.
New York City is said to be one of the leading cities in the world. It is the engine by which the rest of the world runs. The only cities that come close to the influence and history of New York are perhaps, London, Paris, Berlin, Sydney,and maybe, Bangkok. But as New Yorkers, you know your in step, or setting the step for the rest of the world. After all wasn’t the Statue of Liberty given to us as a statement of freedom? Ellis Island, the gates through which one could start a new life if one was willing to work hard, one had the freedom to do so just like the person next to them. We also know that time and effort and close examination is the way to make right decisions to bring about justice and discover a truth. But how do we explain dilatory and apathetic behavior in our city when it comes to something as simple as admitting and and correcting a wronged citizen.
It seems impossible to me that the city that I have grown to love as a second home could ever be anything, in the end, but the city of a fair and equal playing field. A city when it sees injustice in the world it wants to be the first to make sure it is corrected. A city that leads the world in many instances as in the fields of current public opinion, in politics, in fashion, in art, entertainment, and over all especially when it comes to fairness and frankness. In NYC you always know where you stand.
That is why it hurts and confuses me to see this city that I love turn seemingly uncaring hearts when it comes to correcting an obvious miscarriage of justice. It is almost as if the entire city needs to stand in front of the courthouse and say, “Please! enough all ready, everybody makes mistakes and this time it was a rush to judgement. So let’s make it right and move on.” We are in fact world leaders. Given the evidence in the documentary of “The Central Park Five,” written and directed by Ken Burns, Sarah Burns, and David McMahon, one would think that the reconstitution for the loss of five boys youth, the strain on their families, and the death of their families dreams for them, would be a basic given of the need for not only the vacated sentences, but also their monetary reconstitution. Unless the courts are holding onto some yet untold evidence we have yet to hear.
From the moment “The Central Park Five” begins your blood runs cold. It grabs you and doesn’t let go. You are riveted to the facts your about to witness and frightened at the horrible outcome. You realize once again that atrocities we bring onto each other are always far more horrifying than the ones we make up in fiction. Such is the crime which happens when a young 26 year old female investment banker goes jogging in Central Park. The next morning we hear she was brutally raped beyond recognition.
I have lived in New York City for over 25 years and have heard of such unfortunate horrors several times. Once an opera singer was killed for his mountain bike. Many other people robbed and raped and/or killed. In all my years in New York I have only been to Central Park once at night on foot. And that was with a friend no one would ever attack. I have always admired the people who freely used the park. What makes this instance worse than the others? From the looks of it, nothing. Except that this night was a perfect storm for tragedy all around. Young boys, this time Afro-American and Spanish, were roaming the park accosting people they would meet- demanding wallets, or roughing them up. There were of course other young Afro-American men, Spanish men, and White men who were just hanging out in the park at night, as always, and for various reasons. But tonight a young woman would be brutally beaten, and raped, clinging to life, and left for dead. Who did this? Perhaps a few of these boys out “wilding” (the phrase later made up for this behavior of young dark men). We watch as Sarah, David, and Ken show us step by step how each young man came to confess to this crime. We watch how the city and the press are up in arms — a city divided as it seems to be whenever there is race as an issue.
The black community, no doubt, would want to know first what were the boys doing in the wrong place at the wrong time before jumping on the bandwagon to save them. To the black community this forethought is a matter of possible disgrace or protection. If the boys were creating mischief of any sort in the area of the crime being committed than a great number of the community members would feel the boys should have known better and as a result got in trouble making it bad for all young black men. The term (setting us back) comes to mind. On the other hand, if there is enough doubt that they may be victims of profiling and there is no real evidence against them, then the community rallies behind the accused with reasonable caution to make sure the the trial process is fair and clear of rushing to judgement, Also a very real condition in this country even now. There in lies the sadness of our racial divide in which the minority group is truly a victim from the beginning. This condition is changing but here we have yet another example of “the other” syndrome when it comes to the African American race especially when it is male.
The first thoughts that permeate the air is that they are animals. Where as in many cases of the Caucasian youth they are from troubled families or circumstances and have the need to be understood. Just as recently as the two major shootings of the congress woman and the Batman theater shootings. We do not hear any more than what is necessary in order to put them away. Then comes the discussion of their upbringing or the media online poisoning their minds, the warning signs that could have brought on this horror that turned them into murderers. They are studied. They are not reduced to animal status post haste. Nor are they under debate or front page headlines for many months to come. There are many examples of this first mentioned treatment of African American males in this country. What we all want is proper justice and clarity in judgement.
The Central Park Five are convicted and serve fourteen to sixteen years in maximum security prison. One day Korey is approached by a fellow inmate and that inmate confesses to the rape. Upon investigating his claim the authorities find that his DNA was indeed a match to that of the victims and his description of the crime scene explained all the missing facts the police couldn’t manufacture from the Central Park Five none of whom had matching DNA nor blood on anything they owned. So is there any doubt why when we find the boys innocent of this crime why the powers that be are dilatory in apologizing to a wronged citizens?
The young men’s sentences were vacated and they were freed. The post mentioned it on page 38 of that days news release. In time the young men and their families retained lawyers to seek reconstitution’s for their losses. The Five have been in litigation for ten years with no resolution in site. Was all this just about being in the wrong place at the wrong time? Making A perfect storm for a predator to succeed in feasting on his 2nd victim in as many weeks? This distraction of the “wilding”, allowing him to get away to commit another rape and murder before getting caught? Was this error in judgement an unfortunate subliminal carryover from the days of lynching when black or brown skin on a male means danger. Where their characters or their skin color and social status the deciding factors. Evidence seems to dictate that the city dropped the ball here? If so New York, then we ask you, from where will the grace that would heal us come?
In a personal interview with Ken Burns, Sarah Burns, David McMahon and three of the Central Park Five, Yusef Salaam, Korey Wise, and Raymond Santana, The feeling of fellowship permeates the conference room. It feels like family with Ken, Sarah, and David filling the shoes of the in-betweens, (which I dare to hope makes up most of our society), the souls who would want the American tapestry to reflect it’s true richness. When you meet them, you recognize something very comforting. It is an ease that says, yes, it was wrong, anyone with eyes should see it. But there is a thing called blind prejudice which can only be cured by our example and by calmly repeating the facts.
//picx David McMahon, Sarah Burns, and Ken Burns
The beginning interview Sarah Burns, David McMahon, Raymond Santana, Sheila Roberts [journalist], and myself.
Sheila Roberts: What was the genesis for this project and your book?
Sarah Burns: I first met Raymond and Kevin in summer 2003. I was a college student interning over the summer for this small civil law firm. They were involved in the civil suit for this case which hadn’t even been filed yet. So I learned about the case that way. I’d been to young to be aware of it at that time [when it happened], and I ended up writing my undergraduate thesis about the case. It sort of fit with what I was studying in American studies. I was just so fascinated by the case and so moved by the story that I felt like that project wasn’t enough to tell the whole story. So a couple of years later I came back to it and started working on the book which I spent basically five years researching and writing. Pretty early on in the process of working on the book it sort of became obvious, I don’t even remember the exact conversation, I think it was, ah what else would we possibly do but make a documentary. ( All laugh) Yeah, there was really no question about that. The film provided us with the.. just the nature of the medium gave us these new opportunities to tell the story in a different way. Even though it tells the same story as the book, it’s very different in many ways. It covers, I think, a more emotional territory. It gives “The Five” the opportunity to tell the story in their own words which is a little harder to express in the book.
Clent Bowers: Whats interesting in the film is that you never say weather or not in fact you guys where in the park that night or if you were a part of that group that has the name of … what was it?
Raymond Santana: “Wolfpack”.
Clent: Right, Wolf-pack.
David McMahon: I think there’s clarity in the film about the five, I mean they all talk about what they witnessed in the park that night which puts them somewhere else then where the jogger actually happened. So I think there’s clarity and um…
Clent: But I mean there’s clarity that they were in the park but where they a part of the wolf-pack. The woman didn’t get raped by the wolf-pack she got raped by the rapist.
Sarah: Right. There were a group of teenagers in the park, about thirty, that included the Central Park Five. Some people at some point scattered and some people left early.
Clent: yes.. I see..
Sarah: But there were a group of teenagers who entered the park together some of whom committed these other crimes.
Clent: yes I see. Right.
Clent: But none of them had anything to do with the rape of the Central Park Jogger and I think that’s established.
Clent: yes! That is established.
Sarah: That’s established. What wasn’t established for me till now, is that some of you were in the “WolfPack”, or could have been in the Wolf-pack. I know a lot of people go to Central Park at night for various reasons.
Raymond: That’s Right!
Clent: Living in New York I had never heard this term WolfPack how did the name come about.
Sarah: That language was, I mean Wilding was the term that was used to describe those activities. But the term came from the police in this case. It was a new idea and it was something the police said in their press conference. They ascribed it to the group of teenagers and that’s what the police called the teenagers activities but non of the teenagers said that they had used that phrase. So the origin of “Wilding” is this strange sort of mystery of exactly where it came from, But the term really started when the Police gave this press conference and said that these kids where in the park “Wilding” and that became the front page headline.
David: Yes… and that a word continues to have resonance in New York. And Mayor Bloomberg as recently as April of 2010 used it to describe the actions of some minority teens in Central Park. But the other language that was used has the echos of the sort of language that was used in the Jim Crow South and the Scottsborough case. We see these terms describing young black men as animals and connecting them to crimes like in the Scottsborough case the boys had nothing to do with.
Clent: We applaud you for making this film and having us take a good look at the behavior. It seems to have been the case that some people when wronged received reparations with little argument don’t they…are these men going to still have to fight for this?
Raymond: That’s right.
Sarah: Yes, I mean they are now almost a decade, it’s been nine years since they’ve filed the civil suit and the city has made it very clear theta they have no intention of settling it. They are going to go to trial and do everything they can to fight it. And They are still suggesting that the Five had something to do with the rape. I mean they won’t even go so far as to admit that the prosecution was a mistake let alone anything, you know, beyond that. So…
Raymond: That’s right…
Sheila: But then how do they justify, I don’t have the right legal words for this but, justify vacating the whatever it’s called.
Raymond: They can’t justify anything and that’s what makes it so bazaar, it’s so weird, every theory that they propose has so many holes in it your like, are you seriously going to take this to trial? Umm But there is nothing, you know, even as far as, all I did was come in to the room and ask Raymond what happened. and he told me this story, and you know that’s a lie because the questioning took over thirty hours. So Raymond couldn’t just tell me a story.
Sarah: Those Detectives wouldn’t have been doing their jobs if they just walked into the room and said, “What happened.” You don’t get to be a detective by doing that right? right. I mean the convictions were vacated by the judge after the defense filed the motion. The district attorney’s office joined in that motion and said that the conviction should be vacated. So the official position of the attorneys office was essentially that, they shouldn’t have tried them in the first place. But the NYPD came to a different conclusion. And the dependence in the case who are prosecutors and police officers as well as, sort of, the NYPD and the city as a hole, are defended by the cities civil lawyers called the Corporation Council. And their position is that even though we know Mathias Reyes raped the Central Park Jogger, these guys must have had something to do with this some how and so..what we did was in good faith some how, and we did a good job.
Sheila: But they had a similar case. Didn’t an earlier, similar rape case happen a few days or a week earlier…??
Raymond & David: Two Days before..
Sheila: ….And it’s just like they had kind of like, blinders on…
Raymond & David: Yes..
Sarah: Yes and I think theres, I mean I think they had plenty of opportunity. I think to catch Reyes much sooner then they did to prevent these other crimes from happening. But they were so convinced of this narrative they concocted was the right one that they didn’t see.
David: And there was so much momentum going towards it and so much coverage in the press that maybe there was some fear in walking it back and saying, “We didn’t get this right. Let’s start over. Let’s come up with a new theory”. They couldn’t do that then and maybe today that’s why so many people cling to that original outcome, because in some cases their careers where built on the success of that prosecution.
Clent: Is Elizabeth Letterer Afro American?
Sarah & David: No No not that we know of.
Clent: Raymond what now?
Raymond: I wait and focus on the attorney to tell us we are ready for trial. That is our focus now.
Clent: Is Al Sharpton still helping?
Raymond: Yes! Al Sharpton supported us back then and now as well as Senator Perkiness. Koch didn’t support us.
David: But when we made those calls to see who would talk to us, and we tried everybody, we tried the police, we tried the prosecutors, we talked to two Mayors, it was only Koch and Dinkins who gave us interviews. And Koch to his credit says he stands with Margoles decision in 2002. Even though he is on tape I don’t think he was involved at all and you can see what he says about it.
Clent: Sarah when you started the book what did you hope to bring about.
Sarah: It started out for me as a more academic pursuit. There was something in this story for me that was real important to understand; that this doesn’t happen in a vacuum. And as I started working on he book it became much more about the Five and giving them the opportunity to tell us who they are and what had happened as it had never been told.
Sheila: Sarah You did all the work and research why do they want to subpoena your work? I mean, it seems like their showing that they didn’t do there job.
Sarah: We agree. They are fishing and trying to find something they can use, some contradiction or inconsistency. But we feel as journalist that we have a right to speak to people and not have let them see our work.
Raymond: They are stalling to make us quit or give up. They have gone back twenty five years and dug up information in our family. Our doctors, asking if my Dad was on disability, looking to see if we wee ever on social security. But none of this has relevance to the case the truth is that we did not rape Trishi Meili. That\s it. But for them it is just another stall tactic to make us give up. We have been here for ten years and we aren’t going anywhere.
Sheila: Do you think the film is going to have any influence on them? Once it’s released do you think that it will have any impact?
Raymond: Well, that’s what we count on because you know, for so long our voices were gone and nobody really got to know us as individuals, as children of New York City, they gave us this label instead. So now what we hope is that the film reaches the emotions of the people and they connect with us on a whole different level now, and understand that what we went through, that we were victims. We want them to side with us because at one time they were all against us, and you know time heals all wounds, and you can forgive and you can move on. We want them to just come on outside and voice their opinions about the film.
Clent: To realize how slowly we can sometimes move when race is involved is something many people don’t get to see. As a young person did it surprise you to discover what is still lingering as pertains to race?
Sarah: Absolutely, I mean, that was the reason I was interested in this case is because of it’s significance in the context of how we deal with race in America. I mean that’s what I was studying and that’s what I was interested in. The symbolic nature of this case on it’s larger scale is that this isn’t isolated and that what happened in this case had everything to do with race.
David: the same suspicions led to what happen with Taryvon Martin and the stop-and-frisk policy here in New York doesn’t make you feel that we have moved that far off of the position.
Raymond: Well you know we all come to a point when we’ve got to take a stand and all of us here have done that and we’re counting on you now to report the story.
Clent: And to try and say it nicely. Thank you’s and nice meeting you all around.
//picx The Central Park Five
We discussed again how this project came about. Starting with Sarah and her need to create a final paper for her degree. When she read about the Central Park Five and the plight of the five young men involved juxtaposed the most progressive city in the world, she had to write about it. Afterwards she approached Ken and David and The Central Park Five and this documentary was made. This documentary is so powerful that even after you’ve left the theater you continue to ask yourself what is it that makes people so recalcitrant to admit when they have made a mistake and to go about making amends. I asked Ken and the men before me did they think it was as I a conspiracy against allowing Black people to thrive. As we all started to say yes, Ken stopped the conversation with a very enlightening point of view. He said, and I am paraphrasing a bit, that it has to do with the machine of the cities government, that once they had gone to such great lengths to find the solution to a problem in which peoples careers where built upon, the fact that it had all been built on a mistake, or worse malpractice, would ruin these peoples livelihood. Now you might think, so? Look what they have done to these young men. But it has less to do with these young men then the finding out that the “structure of the building” has a major fault. It becomes a matter of saving the cities integrity. That means, they have to find a way out, a way where they don’t loose but everyone to some degree wins.
It was also said in the interview that giving the men this vacated sentence of the crime was enough. Now get this, when the men asked for millions of dollars for this travesty of justice it was alleged to have been said, or insinuated, that the reason they had no hope of a large sum of money is because the court takes into account how much there lives were likely to have been worth otherwise given who they were or where they were from.
I ask Ken how he…he interrupted and says, “Know?” He continued, how he knows not to ask if the president isn’t from this country? We all laughed. he said, every since he was a young boy he was fascinated in human nature and the interactions there of. He like to tell the facts of the situations. He liked to show what has happened as a result of our actions. And I believe, as I think he does, that a pictures tell a story better than anything else.
Here is some of that Interview:
Clent Bowers: Yusef, you have said from a New York Standpoint everyone is going to come and see this movie to either prove that their right or be embarrassed if they are wrong. What else do you think people will come away thinking after seeing this documentary
Ken Burns: Everyones response is anger, tears. and frustration.
Yusef Salaam: That frustration is born out of the fact that 1. they believed the lies that made them think we were guilty.or 2. that they are outraged that they didn’t even know we were exonerated. That the whole aspect of the history of the Central Park Five isn’t as much public knowledge as it should be. But it is public,it is out there and those individuals who felt we were guilty, they’re really upset that they were tricked to believe that lie. Our vacated sentence was public but it was swept under the rug of the Daily News, not to single them out, but it was put on page 38, buried.
Clent: And the Times..?
Ken Burns: Did slightly better, but it still didn’t get the attention that the whole crime and the convictions did.
Yusef: And for those persons that thought we were guilty, their upset that they were tricked, at least that’s what they tell us.
Ken: Only the peoples who’s careers or who made the mistakes are pushing back.
Clent: That’s a lot of people’s pushing back for so long…
Ken: There are all these careers of people, and there are all these themes as you and Sarah and all of us have been talking about, which talk about race. But what it all comes down to is the universal human theme, and that’s about making mistakes and owning up to them. And when you have these big powerful institutions behind you, then you can hide behind them. I mean it has been nearly ten years since this civil suit has been filed. It is just an Ungodly amount of time. First they are imprisoned for thirteen years this has been a tragedy of justice denied. But the last ten years of this has been a limbo of justice delayed, which we know is justice denied.
Korey: You know hearing Mr Ken express what he expresses [he stops to remember], and when I found myself at the federal building, nobody there but me, and Judge your Honor looks at the papers and said, “What happen! This has been here all this time and nobody has done anything about it?” He just shook his head. And I felt, a person reads this and nothing.happens? Nobody gives a damn about New Yorkers. I just said “wow.”
Clent: Who is the machine or person powerful enough to say, “Hey Y’all play this down and let it go.” You know i can be a conspiracy theorist, I mean is there a conspiracy theory.
Yusef & Korey: Yes! Ok?!
Ken: May I say something about conspiracy theories? I think we invent conspiracies. We can’t believe that an individual can do .. or a small person can take down a big person so we have to event something that is equal to the crime. And in here what we are forgetting is that this is institutional racism, people know how to do this all the time, this is power against people who don’t have power. People do this all the time. There’s actually no conspiracy. No one said,”Let’s take down these black kids”. They said, “Hey, maybe we can make these kids for this crime”. And then they got so invested in this idea nobody ever stopped and said, “Nothing matches here, there’s no DNA evidence, they don’t seem to know where the crime took place, they don’t know about the crime.” They were just in the park with a whole bunch of other kids making mischief and this is whats happened. Nobody says that. And then there is the DNA evidence and theirs no match, right? Then they go to jail and the real guy [Matias Reyes], comes forward and says I did it, and his DNA matches, and they re-investigate. Still there are people saying, “whoops, this will not look good on my resume.”. What about Their [the Five] resumes? What about their resumes, something like a half page? Then for the next three pages [ years of the Five boys life] there’s nothing there; There just blank. What we did is went back and said these are just human beings. We can extend to them the courtesy that we have to extend to everyone , “other”, by saying who are you? Where did you come from? What did you think? What was your experience then? What did you feel? Then what happened? That’s all we did ,and this is just the facts ma am. Out of all the films I’ve made you know, that we’ve made, Sarah and Dave and I’ve made, this is the one that is just the facts. This film is a lie detector test. You don’t need a conspiracy, You don’t need a conspiracy because you understand what it is, it isn’t just institutional…..
Clent: Wow you have just ..you said you understood it and I want to share this with you. That explanation, We are enlightened. You have just enlightened us to what the power majority thinks. With us…We don’t….Think that way…
Yusef: ….We don’t even think … Don’t even go there.
Clent, Yusef, Korey: …. We Don’t even think like that.
Clent: You’ve enlightened us. (most people as a whole are so into what is being done to them that we do not stop to see how little it has to do with race in the grand scheme of all the considerations).
Ken: Well He’s a Muslim you know? He wasn’t born in this country?
Clent: This is Driving me crazy. I don’t understand how…I can’t see how anybody can be so hungry to own.. To Own.
Ken: I finished the Civil War series and this little girl ask me this question, twelve years old, we were at an event and I was speaking. She said, “What is racism?” And that really just stops you ’cause you have a twelve year old and you have to answer to them, but your also answering a hug, huge question. And I said, “It is the horrible flip-side of a very understandable human emotion which is love of ones own, and when that metastasizes like a cancer it turns into the suspicion and the action against.” So we’re moving on racism in this country but because we’re moving we also suffer from the growing pains that happen. That is to say it is in the interest of the “like” people to exploit the fears of the “other,” right? You know, you don’t use the N word now you just say he wasn’t born in this country, he’s not American, he’s a Muslim.
Clent: He’s not half white…
Yusef & Korey: Laugh.
Ken: You know? And this is a guy who goes off to church every Sunday you know.. and ( right.. [to the white joke] one of us..you mean )
Ken: This guy goes off to Christian church every Sunday and doesn’t want anybody to pay attention to it. And, I mean he’s a Muslim ? …you know, or he’s a… Then he gets rid of Bin Laden and then [They say], No he didn’t? My God! If some White President had gotten rid of Bin Laden they’d have carved his picture in mount Rushmore by now.
Yusef: True story!
Korey: Man oh man.
Ken: ..Are you kidding me?? Yeah!!
Clent: And we watch the president take this in and try to find…..
Ken: Well his savior is the one who gives him the guidance in that you turn the other cheek. You accept it in the other. You try to find the common ground. You try to find the place where you can get along. And this is the teachings of his religion and this is the main thing,
Clent: My Question to you , before I even met you is why..
Ken: I’m not Black?
Clent: Yes why aren’t you Black.. ( Laughter) ..How can..
Ken: How come I know?
Ken: I don’t know. I think one of the reason, what I’m supposed to be doing is what I’m doing. I’m telling stories in American history and if you tell complicated stories in American history more often then not your going to run into race. Because it’s there. It is our original sin. It’s the thing that’s been both the blessing and the curse, the cause of the civil war, the cause of jazz music, the horrific stuff of Jim Crow, and also Aretha Franklin. I mean come on. So if you love your country, as I do, and you want it to be better, as I do, or to live out its full potential,you know, then you’ve gotta follow what Dr King has said. You’ve got to understand that it isn’t about color, but about character. And this film is one of those, when I say polygraph, it’s a litmus test of character. You can look in the eyes of the people, all of the people. Now maybe the cops and the prosecutors didn’t grant us interviews, contemporary interviews the way four out of five did in one audio. But that’s because they knew they couldn’t answer a lot of the questions we were going to ask them. They didn’t have an answer but four answered the questions and they reveal themselves. And in the found footage, in the news stories you see their faces, you understand. Elizabeth Lederer looks like she knows that this is wrong and she can’t say. She’s caught in a lie. The way, you know, if you tell the truth, it’s effortless. If you tell a lie, it takes a lot of work. Because you have to maintain the lie, and then you have to maintain more of it, and you can see the extra effort of not just saying, “Jeez, we really screwed up we’re really sorry.”
Clent: What would they lose? what would that cost?
Yusef: It would cost them nothing in fact it would make them more human.
Ken: And think of what it would do too. Because of this, Ed Koch says, “This is the crime of the century”. The crime of the century has been 9/11. So let’s separate that out. So if this is the crime of the century why are we permitting this wound to fester; to become infected and to stay infected. We’ve had the opportunity since Matias Reyes stepped forward to completely heal. To completely heal, and there has been ten years of obfuscation and delay. I mean they have sent out investigations going twenty five years back. Raymond’s Dad was asked to fill out all these forms to see if he ever was on disability. I mean just delay after delay. And when they in turn, through their attorneys, ask for something, then they [the court], have to get judges to come and say,” What? Just stop delaying and give them what their asking for”. So all of a sudden you are now almost ten years in court and you’ve just gotten started. what you hope…
Yusef: A snails pace. A snail is walking and I, oh man, I’m still just next to the door and I’ve got to go all the way down to there.
Clent: What are you guys asking for
Yusef: Ultimately, Korey said it best, I want my life back. We can’t get our lives back because, you know ,the injustice has happened. and you know, but justice…
Ken: They’ll always be the Central Park Five.
Yusef: Yes we will always be the Central Park Five.
Ken: But there is a place where they can be the Central Park Five who are the symbols of forbearance, and perseverance, and speaking truth to power. That’s what you want the Central Park Five to mean.
Korey: When I was at the federal building I had my own intentions. I just wanted them to give me their attention. But they don’t want media, they don’t want to speak on it. I even thought what if I wait here till I faint would they do anything. They want it to drag on. The second time I went, after talking about it with my mother, because she doesn’t want anymore to do with the case, she’s tired.
Clent: Your mother doesn’t want anymore to do with the case?
Korey: No! She’s tired. She says it isn’t going anywhere [the trial]. It’s been fourteen years and she is tired. We tell this to judge Ellis and he asked my lawyer what is she saying and then I couldn’t take it anymore. I threw up my hands and started to talk from the back of the court. I said, Judge, your Honor, I understand you’re talking to my mother, from me to you, “Whatever information you have gotten from my mother and the family, I understand you need a deposition or whatever, but whatever you got, take that and run with it. My family is done. Their finished. Put a fork in them they are done. They’re done!! We are all suffering from post dramatic stress disorders, we all broken like a puzzle, we Done, judge I been home ten years, I been away for something I didn’t do for fourteen, feels like fourteen, I’m tired, You’ve taken everything out of me, I am tired of being harassed by the police . I’m too old for that. I’m talking to you judge, you the only one that can stop this here. Every day I am being harassed by the police, I’m tired, I don’t know when I’m gonna pass out. I just want to live. What more? What? My brothers on crack, my mother is moving away, and I am tired. Stop harassing us, calling asking questions, bothering and harassing me in the streets. I am tired. It’s been fourteen years and I’m talking to you judge cause only you can stop this here. I don’t know how much longer I can hold out I’m tired and i want to live.” so you know he just..
Clent: What did he say?
Korey: Well coming from my lawyers they said he would take all that under consideration take it to his chambers and ponder on it,
Ken: And then of course they will set a new court date in a couple of months.
Korey: I mean I just had to give it to them.
Clent: When cases go on like this, is there an intention for you to expire before they do?
Ken: Yes! Yep! They’re holding, they’re holding. It’s a “sell by” date they’re holding…
Korey: It’s a hold out!
Ken: They want Korey to give up. They want him to say I’m to tired.
Yusef: My mother said that. My mother is fighting cancer. My great aunt was part of the family law suit and she passed away… you know .. that’s so true, that right there is such a reality, If we say we’ve had enough of this, let’s just live our lives.
Ken: That’s what they’re counting on.
Clent: But does knowing this give you anything?
Yusef: Yes we are going to hold out we have time.
Clent: You guys are still young and this was very very unfortunate but..
Ken: Well, you can help by yelling it and screaming it.
Clent: We Will.
Ken: We’re counting on it. Hey thanks so much for listening.
Clent: Thank you all for telling us the story.
//picx Headlines from the news during the time of the attack.
I love New York just as I love Los Angeles, Florida, and all the states of the union of which I have had the honor to work in or live in. I know that with time most injustices like that of the Central Park Five or the West Memphis Three proves, as Ken Burns says, has more to do with embarrassment and position then race. It has to do with authority admitting it can make a mistake and what the admission may signal to the people. We are all imperfect human beings we have all made mistakes and we are all taught that it is good to correct them. Still, long after you’ve left the theater you continue to ask yourself, what is it that makes people so reluctant to admit when they have made a mistake and begin to make amends.
In this fantastic documentary and subsequent interview with three of The Central Park Five. We see how life renews itself. One may look at these men and say, look, you’re being celebrated in film, at least you’re getting some recognition, maybe some residual monies as well and now you’re perceived positively.
But when looking at these young men who basically are waiting first for a mere apology, one should really say, “Thank You.”
Thank you for being patient with us. Thank you for not exploding. Thank you for not hurting yourself. Thank you for your humility and your humanitarianism. For as we have learned through time, no matter how deep a thing is buried eventually it will come to light. “It will all come clean in the wash,” as my mother always says.
Just as these men were caught up in a machine and are now finding it difficult to get untangled even though freed, the very same thing has happened to others here in America. We urge you to take your family to see The Central Park Five because it is a brilliant life changing documentary. The Central Park Five opens on November 30, 2012 at a theater near you.
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