As NYC-born and raised educators, organizers and activists who work on issues relating to race, class, criminalization and youth justice, we were deeply touched by the Netflix series When They See Us, directed by Ava DuVernay. Based on the case of the Central Park Five, a group of black and Latinx teenagers who were coerced into confession, wrongly convicted and harshly sentenced to prison for the alleged rape of a white woman, this series captures the socio-political and economic atmosphere of New York City in the eighties and nineties.
… The Netflix series touches on themes relating to race, class, gender, criminalization of youth and media moral panics, which we want to help students further unpack. The readings in this syllabus are meant to supplement the documentary series and allow students to engage critically with the historical and contemporary criminalization of working-class youth of color. We hope that youth educators will add to this syllabus and continue these important conversations inside and outside of the classroom. It is through expanding our knowledge about the past and present that we can organize against the criminalization and incarceration of our youth. Please use #exonerated5syllabus or #WhenTheySeeUsSyllabus to share.