It was the Spring of 1989 when their lives made headlines. Five boys from Harlem who became known as the ‘Central Park Five’ were accused of a brutal crime. The story was branded as a ‘park wilding’ with them being taken in for questioning. But the story was a big cover-up for political gain.
Fast-forward to present day, as the woke film director Ava DuVernay works to bring closure and exposure to the injustice that was handed them. Even after DNA evidence came back without a match to any of them, the prosecuting attorneys still went ahead to frame the story in a way opposite to the facts.
So DuVernay with the support of Oprah Winfrey as an executive producer, decided to produce the Netflix special ‘When They See Us’ to tell the true story. Her approach was one of looking at the criminal justice system from four angles: policing, prosecution, parole and the prison industrial complex.
She got high praise from Tyler Perry, Levar Burton and others for the project’s cinematic depth. Her social justice work aims to open eyes, inform minds and touch hearts to inspire broader change. This project fits that mold and begs the question, “What if the ‘Black to America’ story were told with similar gusto?
This summer commemorates 400 years of that journey which began around August 1619 at Jamestown Virginia. The upcoming ‘America in Color’ Report presents a new way to see history, family, culture, country and social issues with a better picture quality for a higher level of citizenship.
One way to unpack the 400-year journey is by the 7 phases, 3 communities and 2 questions that overlap the story. Parts of the story call for celebration, parts describe periods of determination and parts of the story include racial oppression. It’s a story of ‘strong citizens’ and their ‘citizen shining moments.’
Many Americans know a more recent idea of strong citizens which got its start after Superstorm Sandy hit the East Coast in 2012. As elected officials visited some affected areas in New Jersey, a sentiment began to surface. The point of pulling together to recover and rebuild was later phrased as ‘Jersey Strong.’
This caught-on in other areas across the country, including after the Boston marathon explosion where we heard ‘Boston Strong.’ The idea of strong citizens may have started during some of the darkest times in the ‘Black to America’ journey. But it also shows up today as a ‘Hometown Strong’ feeling.
So having an ‘America in Color’ perspective means seeing the larger storyline with a similar kind of truth-telling to better understand American history from five angles: Justice, Political, Education, Immigration & Tax systems. This helps to give a better picture quality for seeing social issues more clearly.
DuVernay said in a recent Oprah chat that she changed the name of the project from ‘Central Park Five’ because she wanted to present a new take for how the story is told. Well, ‘America in Color’ is a new name for how the ‘strong citizens’ story is told and #WhenWeShowThem represents what it means to survive and even thrive no matter the personal/social challenge.
Tracks: Mary J. Blige ft Nas – Thrive – https://youtu.be/98YJEr9NaXc
Koryn Hawthorne ft Lecrae – Unstoppable – https://youtu.be/us7hvF6lsoc