I remember the Central Park Five. I remember them well. In the spring of 1989, I was not much older than the boys themselves, an undergraduate at nearby Sarah Lawrence College, just a 30 minute Metro North train ride from the city where, it seemed, everyone had convicted the teenagers accused of brutally raping and nearly killing a woman jogger in the north end- the Harlem end- of the park.
Four of the five boys were Black, like me. The victim was a woman, like me.
The prosecutors, defense attorneys, police, DA, mayor were all New Yorkers, like me. And the city was torn apart, like I am now, after watching Ken Burns’ stunning film, The Central Park Five.
I normally dislike the overuse of the first person in journalism. The story, after all, should be about the subject, not the writer. But The Central Park Jogger case is about me. It is about all of us. I am complicit in the denigration of five innocent boys who were wrongly accused of raping a White woman 24 years ago. All of us who rushed to judge these boys, to allow the media coverage of the case to overwhelm what should have been a quiet, meticulous investigation of the evidence, are equally complicit in the wrongful incarceration of five beautiful young men. With delicate photography and an effective use of period footage and sound, Burns makes what may be the most important film of his career – and makes a case against our own deeply ingrained prejudices.