Category: African American Issues

The Young Actors Of ‘When They See Us’ On Becoming The Exonerated Five Of The Central Park Jogger Case

As When They See Us, the limited series on The Central Park Jogger case from Ava DuVernay, bows on Netflix this week, the world will come to learn the true story about what happened that night and how the case impacted the young men that were wrongly accused of the crime. For the young actors who stepped into the shoes of the five, it was a daunting task, but something they were fully prepared for and exceeded at, which is something you’ll realize almost instantly once they appear on the screen.

Shadow And Act sat down with Asante Blackk (Kevin Richardson), Jharrel Jerome (Korey Wise), Ethan Herisse (Yusef Salaam), Caleel Harris (Antron McCray) and Marquis Rodriguez (Raymond Santana) ahead of the series premiere at the Apollo Theater in Harlem.

As a New York City native, getting into the role wasn’t that hard for Jerome, who holds the distinction of being the only actor that portrays both the teen and adult versions of his character. The young actor got his start in Barry Jenkins’ Moonlight and, if all is right in the world, he’s poised for a breakout awards season and a potential Emmy win for When They See Us. “I’m from the Bronx, so I’ve been kind of doing research my whole life in a way — understanding you have to talk polite to the police, understanding that you have to stay away from the park at night, stay out of the streets at night.  It was kind of this subconscious feeling of I kind of understand the intensity and the fear of the project, but it took watching the documentary a couple of times, they gave us transcripts, they gave us the actual documents, I got to watch Korey’s entire confession over and over. Ava opened up this world for us to get us into their minds.” Rodriguez, who has been cast in the upcoming Game of Thrones prequel pilot, agreed and added, “We had so much source material that was unbelievably helpful.”

For Blackk, a series standout as Richardson, he has one thing in particular that he wants viewers unfamiliar with the case to take away. “Humanity, for the most part,” he said. “These guys were painted as everything but human in 1989, painted as a wolfpack, as criminals. And just to take that step back and realize that these guys are human, they have entire lives outside of just this horrible one part of their life. They are real people, they have goals, dreams and aspirations. [I’d want them] to just see that in these men.” 

With this material that hit so close to home, the young men all agreed that the story and content stayed with them long after the cameras were off and filming was over. Harris, who starred in the new Goosebumps film, as well as Hulu’s Castle Rock last year, explained that feeling. “Even still, those scenes..they stay a part of you. They never really leave you. When you truly put yourself in that situation, it’s hard to get out of it. It sticks with you and it just marinates. It really never leaves you. It stays a part of your soul, really,” he said. Herisse added, “After doing the verdict scene, I went back to my room and my dad was with me on set. He could see that I was clearly shaken up, and he was like, ‘It’s OK, the scene’s over,’ and I was like, ‘No, it’s not OK, it’s not over. This is still happening.”

Jerome added, “No matter what, we’re still people of color, so we leave set looking around, almost a little more scared now. That naivety that I had before the project is gone. I’m no longer naive to the brutality of a police officer or justice system. You kind of go around and you want to take this project as a lesson for you.”

“It’s one thing to have empathy for a story, but we were steeping in it for so long…that does something different to you,” Rodriguez said.

When They See Us is now streaming on Netflix.  

African-American strippers awarded more than $3 million in discrimination case

Five African-American dancers will split more than $3 million awarded to them Wednesday for back pay and suffering while working in a Mississippi strip club. The attorney for Danny’s Downtown Cabaret in Jackson, Bill Walter, said he would ask a federal judge to reduce the award. If the judge doesn’t agree, he said he will appeal.

“Obviously, the client is disappointed in the verdict,” Walter said.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) sued the club several years ago, alleging that black dancers worked limited hours and were fined $25 if they missed a shift. White strippers were allowed flexible schedules and were not fined for missing work, the commission argued.

he agency also said the manager called one black dancer a racial slur and club owners forced black women to work at another club they owned called Black Diamonds, where conditions and security were worse and dancers were paid less.

“This case shows the EEOC will sue any employer, operating any type of business, who violates federal anti-discrimination laws, especially those who will not stop discriminating even after being given repeated chances to do so,” Rucker said. “The jury … sent a powerful message to Danny’s and any employer who thinks they are above the law.”

Morehouse Graduates’ Student Loans to Be Paid Off by Billionaire

Not even Morehouse College administrators knew the announcement was coming.

Addressing the college’s class of 2019, Robert F. Smith, a man who is richer than Oprah Winfrey, made a grand gesture straight out of the television mogul’s playbook.

“My family is going to create a grant to eliminate your student loans,” he said on Sunday morning, bringing the approximately 400 students in caps and gowns to their feet.

“This is my class,” he said.

In January, Mr. Smith, a billionaire, donated $1.5 million to the college to fund student scholarships and a new park on campus. He received an honorary degree at the graduation on Sunday.

[Who is Robert F. Smith? Read more.]

The value of the new gift is unclear because of the varying amounts the students owe, but the money will be disbursed through Morehouse College and will apply to “loans students directly have for their college education,” a representative for Mr. Smith said.

Because Morehouse was not informed of Mr. Smith’s plans before the ceremony, details about how the money would be distributed were not immediately available.

A private equity titan, Mr. Smith founded Vista Equity Partners in 2000.

After making a fortune in software, he was named the nation’s richest African-American by Forbes. According to that financial magazine, Mr. Smith’s estimated net worth is $5 billion, making him richer than Ms. Winfrey, who previously held the title of the wealthiest black person.

Mr. Smith studied chemical engineering at Cornell University and finance and marketing at Columbia Business School. Although he shunned the spotlight for many years, Mr. Smith has recently embraced a more public role, speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, and making major charitable contributions. Cornell named its chemical and biomolecular engineering school for him after he announced a $50 million gift, and he has made major donations to the National Museum of African American History and Culture. He started the Fund II Foundation, which is focused in part on preserving African-American history and culture, and signed the Giving Pledge, a campaign through which wealthy individuals and families commit more than half their wealth to charitable causes, either during their lifetimes or in their wills.

Anand Giridharadas, the author of “Winners Take All” and a frequent critic of big philanthropy, said Mr. Smith’s offer was “generous.” But, he added, “a gift like this can make people believe that billionaires are taking care of our problems, and distract us from the ways in which others in finance are working to cause problems like student debt or the subprime crisis on an epically greater scale.”

Sunday’s announcement came amid growing calls to address the crushing burden of student loan debt in the United States, which has more than doubled in the past decade.

Over the past 20 years, average tuition and fees at private four-year colleges rose 58 percent, after accounting for inflation, while tuition at four-year public colleges increased even more, by over 100 percent, according to research from the College Board.

According to federal data, the average federal student loan debt is $32,000. The standard repayment plan for federal student loans is up to 10 years, but most students, according to research, take far longer than that to pay off their balances.

For the students at Morehouse, an all-male, historically black college in Atlanta that costs about $48,500 per year to attend, the gift could be transformative, especially in the unsettled years after graduation.

In an interview with the The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Elijah Dormeus, a 22-year-old business administration major carrying $90,000 in student debt, said: “If I could do a backflip, I would. I am deeply ecstatic.”

Mr. Smith’s prepared speech did not include his plan to pay off the students’ debts.

“Now, I know my class, who will make sure they pay this forward,” Mr. Smith said on Sunday morning. “And I want my class to look at these alumni, these beautiful Morehouse brothers — and let’s make sure every class has the same opportunity moving forward — because we are enough to take care of our own community.”

50 Years of Affirmative Action: What Went Right, and What It Got Wrong

On cold mornings, Les Goodson shows up early outside the University Club, on a wealthy stretch of Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, and races two panhandlers he has nicknamed Catman and Pimp-the-Baby for a warm spot in front of a steam vent. He launches into “Take Five” on his saxophone, leaving his case open for bills and coins.

In a good week, it’s a living — enough to pay the rent on his railroad flat in Harlem and put food on the table. A few times, he has seen a former classmate, Gregory Peterson, bound into the social club without so much as a nod.

Mr. Goodson, 67, and his classmate were among a record number of black students admitted to Columbia University in 1969. Columbia and other competitive colleges had already begun changing the racial makeup of their campuses as the civil rights movement gained ground, but the assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968, and the resulting student strikes and urban uprisings, prompted them to redouble their efforts.

They acted partly out of a moral imperative, but also out of fear that the fabric of society was being torn apart by racial conflict. They took chances on promising black students from poor neighborhoods they had long ignored, in addition to black students groomed by boarding schools.

A look back through the decades shows what went right in the early years of affirmative action in college admissions, but also what can go wrong even with the best of intentions.

Those who were able, through luck or experience or hard work, to adapt to the culture of institutions that had long been pillars of the white establishment succeeded by most conventional measures. Others could not break through because of personal trauma, family troubles, financial issues, culture shock — the kind of problems felt by many white students as well, but compounded by being in such a tiny minority. And universities at the time, they said, did not have the will or the knowledge to help.

“I think it’s a fair question to ask: Did we really understand or know what we were doing, or could we have predicted what the issues would be?” said Robert L. Kirkpatrick Jr., who at the time was dean of admissions at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Conn., which was part of these early efforts. “The answer is no. I think we were instinctively trying to do the right thing.”

Columbia — an Ivy League campus right next to Harlem — was a particularly revelatory setting. Perhaps nowhere else were the divisions more striking between the privilege inside university gates and the troubles and demands of black people outside them.

The New York Times tracked down many of the nearly 50 black students in Columbia’s Class of 1973, who arrived on campus as freshmen in 1969. Some of them have remained close friends and helped locate others from directories and photographs.

READ MORE: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/30/us/affirmative-action-50-years.html?emc=edit_th_190331&nl=todaysheadlines&nlid=728232290331

San Francisco To Pay $13.1 Million To Man Framed By Police For Murder

San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to approve a $13.1 million settlement for a man framed by police for murder.

Jamal Trulove spent more than six years in prison for a 2007 murder before being acquitted in a 2015 retrial. 

“And trust me I’m not done with them by a long shot!!” a profile appearing to be Trulove wrote on Twitter. “After what these cowards of the law did to me, I will lit my freedom ring through every platform I get to show what injustice really looks like. Me!”

He sued in January 2016. In April of last year, a jury in Oakland found that two police officers on the case, Maureen D’Amico and Michael Johnson, deliberately fabricated evidence and failed to disclose exculpatory material.

Alex Reisman, one of the lawyers for Trulove, told the Associated Press that Trulove “endured a lot,” spending years in maximum security prisons in Southern California, hundreds of miles away from his family.

Police arrested Trulove for the 2007 murder of his friend Seu Kuka, who was shot in a public housing project in San Francisco. Trulove was convicted in 2010 and sentenced to 50 years to life in prison.

But a California appeals court overturned that conviction in 2014 and ordered a new trial. He was acquitted in a retrial in 2015.

Trulove’s attorneys said police manipulated a witness into misidentifying Trulove as the shooter.

The police officers named in the lawsuit have retired, and none were disciplined for their actions in the case, Reisman told the AP.

Trulove was pursuing a career in acting and hip-hop at the time of his arrest. He appeared in the reality TV show I Love New York 2. This year he appears in the movie The Last Black Man in San Francisco, which is scheduled for release in June.

Trulove wrote on Instagram in March that he has been dealing with PTSD from the experience. 

“Theres nothing I could do to make up for that time I missed,” he wrote. “No amount of money could ever reverse the time I missed with my kids and the affect that it’s had on there up bringing and our relationship.”

The Last Black Man in San Francisco | Official Trailer

Directed by Joe Talbot and starring Jimmie Fails, Jonathan Majors, Rob Morgan, Tichina Arnold, and Danny Glover. Winner of the Sundance Best Director and Special Jury Awards. The Last Black Man in San Francisco — Summer 2019 SUBSCRIBE: http://bit.ly/A24subscribe From writer/director Joe Talbot and starring Jimmie Fails, Jonathan Majors, Rob Morgan, Tichina Arnold, and Danny Glover. The Last Man in San Francisco – In Theaters Summer 2019. RELEASE DATE: Summer 2019 DIRECTOR: Joe Talbot CAST: Jimmie Fails, Jonathan Majors, Rob Morgan, Tichina Arnold, and Danny Glover Like The Last Black Man in San Francisco on FACEBOOK: http://bit.ly/facebook_LastBlackManSF Follow The Last Black Man in San Francisco on Twitter: http://bit.ly/twitter_LastBlackManSF Follow The Last Black Man in San Francisco on Instagram: http://bit.ly/instagram_LastBlackManSF

‘When They See Us’: Teaser, First Images Unveiled For Ava DuVernay’s Netflix Limited Series On Central Park Five

Unveiling a name change for the limited series, Netflix has dropped the first teaser for When They See Us, Ava DuVernay’s scripted, four-part project on The Central Park Five. The release coincides with the 30th anniversary of the incident.

In a statement, Netflix says in part: “The media dubbed the men The Central Park Five and they were forever linked to that name.  The new title aims to break them free from that moniker. This is a story told from the perspective of the five men. It is important to everyone involved in the project to give these men an opportunity to tell their story and the series should have a title that represents their story.”

“In 1989, five Black and brown teen boys were wrongly accused of a crime they did not commit and branded The Central Park Five, a moniker that has followed them since that time. In 2019, our series gives the five men a platform to finally raise their voices and tell their full stories. In doing so, Korey, Antron, Raymond, Kevin and Yusef also tell the story of many young people of color unjustly ensnared in the criminal justice system. We wanted to reflect this perspective in our title, embracing the humanity of the men and not their politicized moniker,” says DuVernay.

The official description of the series: Based on a true story that gripped the country, When They See Us will chronicle the notorious case of five teenagers of color, labeled the Central Park Five, who were convicted of a rape they did not commit. The four-part limited series will focus on the five teenagers from Harlem — Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Yusef Salaam, Raymond Santana and Korey Wise. Beginning in the spring of 1989, when the teenagers were first questioned about the incident, the series will span 25 years, highlighting their exoneration in 2002 and the settlement reached with the city of New York in 2014.

Portraying the young versions of the five are Jharrel Jerome, Ethan Herisse, Caleel Harris, Asante Blackk and Marquis Rodriguez.  Jerome will also play the adult version of his character, alongside Chris Chalk, Freddy Miyares, Jovan Adepo and Justin Cunningham as the others.

Felicity Huffman and Vera Farmiga will play members of the prosecution team, while Michael K. Williams, John Leguizamo, Niecy Nash, Aunjanue Ellis, Kylie Bunbury, Storm Reid and Marsha Stephanie Blake play family members of the accused. Famke Janssen, Aurora Perrineau, Omar J. Dorsey and Adepero Oduye also have roles.

The series was created by Ava DuVernay, who also co-wrote and directed the four parts. Jeff Skoll and Jonathan King from Participant Media, Oprah Winfrey from Harpo Films and Jane Rosenthal, Berry Welsh and Robert De Niro from Tribeca Productions will executive produce the limited series alongside DuVernay through her banner, Forward Movement. DuVernay, Attica Locke, Robin Swicord and Michael Starrburry also serve as writers on the limited series.

Watch the teaser and check out the images below: