It’s been over a year since Ava DuVernay shed new light on the heartbreaking story of five young Black men who had their childhood stripped away because of racism in America. Her Emmy-winning Netflix series , “When They See Us”, gives a gut-wrenching account of how the boys, deemed the “central park five,” lives were shattered thanks to the negligence of the NYPD and those in positions of power within the city.
When the truth is revealed, everyone isn’t always happy about it and this time it’s Linda Fairstein, the real-life villain of the series. The former Manhattan prosecutor who oversaw the case and secured the original convictions has never come forth to apologize to the young men who lost more than 30 years of their lives for a crime they never committed.
Fairstein filed a lawsuit against Netflix, the show’s co-writer Attica Locke, and DuVernay and according to the suit, “In the film series, which Defendants have marketed and promoted as a true story, Defendants depict Ms. Fairstein- using her true name- as a racist, unethical villain who is determined to jail innocent children of color at any cost.”
At the time of their conviction, Kevin Richardson, Yusef Salaam, Raymond Santana, and Korey Wise were between the ages of 14 and 16. They were released after spending 15 years in jail despite no hard evidence that they were guilty of the crime.
While she hasn’t made a statement yet surrounding the lawsuit, DuVernay did respond to Fairstein’s negative claims surrounding the series at a Q & A in 2019 stating, “I think that it’s important that people be held accountable. And that accountability is happening in a way today that it did not happen for the real men 30 years ago. But I think that it would be a tragedy if this story and the telling of it came down to one woman being punished for what she did because it’s not about her. It’s not all about her.”
Netflix has responded fully supporting DuVernay and Locke, “Linda Fairstein’s frivolous lawsuit is without merit. We intend to vigorously defend ‘When They See Us’ and Ava DuVernay and Attica Locke, the incredible team behind the series.”
Upon its release, “When They See Us,” was the streaming platform’s most watched-series at the time with more than 23 million accounts watching. We won’t dwell on it being snubbed at the Golden Globes because the series picked up two Primetime Emmys with Jharrel Jerome snagging Outstanding Lead Actor for his portrayal of Korey Wise in the series.
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These pictures tell the story of last night. Outside, all I wanted was this red carpet picture with the Exonerated 5. We got it. And once inside, all I wanted was for them to have their moment. I didn’t know how or when it would come. But I believed it would. As the categories kept not going our way, I prayed: “Just a moment. Please.” Then it happened. “And the winner is @jharreljerome.” And the audience exploded. And Jharrel took the stage in all his deserved glory and made a perfect speech that mentioned the men. And then, the men stood. And raised their fists. And the crowd roared and stood for them. And in that moment, everything was complete. And I whispered: “Thank you.” xo
Looks like Fairstein is just going to have to eat some humble pie while this continues to pan out- it’s hard to fight truth with lies.