12 PROFOUND LESSONS FROM AVA DuVERNAY’S WHEN THEY SEE US (Based on a True Life Story)

Few days ago, I was awake in the middle of the night, wiping generous tears from my face not because I’m such a cry baby—I can sometimes be anyway—but because I was watching this really powerful movie about what life does to people. And because I caught so many lessons in there and wouldn’t just let them go without attempting to share, here I am writing my first movie, ermm, should we say review? I guess. To start with, I want to encourage you to watch this movie if you haven’t yet, and try not to cry so much, if you can. I’m not kidding, you could practically weep if you are emotional. This movie was based on a real-life story. Real Life Story. I believe by now you are asking me to shoot, so here I go, to the best of my ability.

Five teenage boys— with a whole lot of other boys of their age, anyways— went to the central park on a certain night, just for the fun of it, one out of curiosity, another to escort his friend, one cause his dad said to scram, they were just out. Like teenage boys would go out and mix with friends or anything. One night at the central park and their lives changed forever!

What happened? They were out wilding—wherever that meant, but young black boys were just in these large numbers at the park, laughing, talking and walking along. Sure some of them booed passersby maybe and were only just being ‘teens’, but unfortunately down somewhere a white lady was attacked by an unknown person and her body was discovered. Meanwhile, calls had been made to the police about various things happening in the park; bullying, harassment, a theft or so. When a report came in that a white lady had been assaulted and left for dead, the police went down to the park and rounded up several teens.

I won’t waste much time in going straight to the five I am here to talk about. The five that were the scape goats in this sad story. The five my heart goes out to and we are now to learn from.

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One was Kevin, 14yrs. He earlier parted with his elder sister, Angie and was to be home on time in the evening to do the dishes, huh? On his way back he saw group of boys heading towards the park and I guess he got curious. He ran home to drop his bag and join them. At home, his sick mother  was asleep on the couch. He would have stayed back but youth excitement got the better of him and he covered his mom carefully with a blanket and went off. When the police cars suddenly arrived with their sirens, he tried to run and a police man catching up with him knocked him down and hit him severally with his helmet, he had bruises on his face and was left on the floor, helpless. Another kid was watching from his hiding place: Antron.

Antron McRay, 15, was also at the park, ran to hide and eventually made it home with muddy clothes having stumbled in the dark. His mom had that put in the tub when he came home very late. The next morning the police came for him and the cloth was discovered and taken as some ‘evidence’ he was at the crime scene.

Raymond, 15 as well, who was permitted by his dad to go to the park, went along with his friends and was rounded up when the police came to the park that night.

Kory wise, 16, a chronic absentee at school was at the eatery eating with his girlfriend when his buddy Yosef Saleem, 15 called out to him to join him. He was lost between going with his friend or staying with his girlfriend but later chose the former. They both managed to escape when the police came that night but they were taken up the next day on the street to the precinct for ‘questioning’. The funny thing was the police actually came for Yosef, but Kory followed his buddy to watch out for him and that was the end of the story.

At the station, whatever that method they used, The Reid Technique or something, on frightened teenagers without their parents or guardians present and that on empty stomach too, turned out badly. You need to see this movie to understand.

They were threatened, beaten, assaulted, manipulated and thoroughly deceived just to force something out of their mouths. Thanks to a certain woman I don’t deem it fit to mention her name here, who pushed the detectives to get a statement from those black guys by all means, out of a misguided quest to get justice for the white lady who was attacked, shouts of ‘Kevin said you did it’, ‘Antron saw you did it’, ‘Ray has confessed, said you were there too’ and all sorts of lies saturated the atmosphere as they individually questioned five different boys who do not know each other before and made them say things they didn’t do out of self-preservation! They were practically told if they ‘cooperated’ with them they could go home. So one person lied on the others so he could go home. Another did same and yet another did same. Statements were written on their behalf and they were told to put their signatures to it to agree they were true. False statements! Though a couple of them fought against it insisting they didn’t do it, the police manipulated their parents to also agree with the agreement. The evil arrangement that put them all into trouble eventually. What am I saying?

  1. Stand for the truth and do not waiver: if you didn’t do something then don’t say you did it for any reason. Even if you were to die, stand by your truth.
  2. Don’t let anyone manipulate you with fake promises. Things are not always the way it seems. Those kids thought by admitting to a crime they did not commit the police would release them to go home just because they ‘promised’. Unfortunately, they served terms! They spent between 6-14 years each in jail after several trials before they could ‘go home’.
  3. When a certain author said something about the determination to preserve a thing usually ends in its ruin, it took me a while to totally understand. The situation in this movie is another one to drive home the point. If only the boys knew lying to preserve themselves could really spoil everything for each of them.
  4. We all should understand the importance of this words, sorry if it is not verbatim, “you have the choice to not saying anything, you can get yourself a lawyer, whatever you say from now on will be held against you in the court of law”. Now read that over again!
  5. Always, always, always read whatever you are signing. Please!
  6. Don’t allow yourself to be pushed, pressured or manipulated into something you may spend the rest of your life regretting!
  7. Life and truth is very important. It is more important that preserving a job, for example. See the case of Antron’s father.
  8. Some actions we take today may look inconsequential now but may stand against us in future. See the case of Kory absconding from school for a whole month.
  9. It is okay if you don’t understand something, ask questions, and be smart. Know your rights as an individual. Don’t allow yourself to be bullied into hurting yourself.
  10. People are evil!!! If you’ve seen the movie or when you later do, you will understand that even today, people sit behind closed doors planning how to ruin others. Yeah, that’s how evil the world is!
  11. While the boys were serving terms in the prison for a crime they knew nothing about, this mysterious woman behind it all was busy writing crime novels. Living her life. I just wanted you all to know that.
  12. Another lesson that we all should keep very close to our hearts is this: it is better to exonerate the guilty than to incriminate the innocent. If you have ever been wrongly accused, you would understand.

Post written by Opeyemi Babafemi

Photo credit:Google Image

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2 Comments

  • I have had the opportunity to see the series and I was left with the distinct impression too that they shouldn’t have lied at all even under the most stressful conditions, they should have told the truth and stuck with it. Sink or swim. Pitied Corey Wise the most. Great article. Kudos

    Reply
    • Thanks for commenting Adewonuola.There are many lessons to learn from the movie.Thank God you were able to relate.

      Reply

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