When They See Us

Central Park Five Syllabus: A Supplementary Reading List 

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.

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Refusing to Be Broken: Hartwick College Criminalizes Black Female Self-Defense against Racist White Male Assaults

– by Jallicia Jolly –

… Black female resistance is always greeted with punishment as young Black women are forced to accept both the apology and justification for their violation. Viewed as a bearer of an incurable immorality, Black girls and women remain culpable for the suffering caused by their dynamic dehumanization. Ask Marissa Alexander – a Black woman from Florida charged with firing a warning shot at her abusive ex-husband.

Yet, Black women continue to fight against murderous embodiments of racist patriarchy. It is this context that makes the use of their own bodies as weapons of resistance revolutionary. It is in the battlefield of legal visibility, public recognition, and personal safety that their self-defense asserts their right to life, protection, care, and dignity. …

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