The Central Park Five

Central Park Five

I was only two years old in 1989 so I obviously was not aware of these men when the story first broke. In 2002, when the man who committed the crime stepped forward and these men were officially declared innocent, you can still say that I was a baby being only 15 years old. As I think about my life and the things I was doing then, graduating Middle School and entering High School, I cannot help but to think about these men who, at 15, was on their way to jail.

You can say that they were doomed from the beginning. Let’s set the scene. In 1989, big cities like Chicago and New York City was overflowing with crack addiction within the black community.

“Crack popped up in Miami and Los Angeles in the 1970s. The Drug Enforcement Agency didn’t pay it much mind then. It was nothing more than a different version of cocaine, the agency figured. Crack arrived in New York City in the early 1980s before most of the public had heard anything about it. The department was understaffed. Budget cuts from the 1970s, when the city was almost bankrupt, had forced the NYPD to lay off nearly a third of its officers from 1975 to 1982. Meanwhile, crack began its spread across New York. It was cheaper than cocaine. Anybody could afford it, and anybody could sell it — anybody could buy a gram of coke, chop it up, cook it, and flip it for double the money. So now, all of a sudden, you have got a product that is saleable to a mass new audience,” Robert Strutman, a former New York city D.E.A. agent, told PBS Frontline in 2000. “And that is what the New York drug peddlers did. They mass-merchandized cocaine.” The media world first noticed crack in 1984, when the Los Angeles Times reported that “cocaine sales explode with $25 rocks.” According to a 1999 paper in Columbia University’s Souls journal, reporters began using the word “crack” in 1985. The earliest instance was a November 1985 story in the New York Times: “new form of cocaine, known as crack, was for sale in New York City.” By 1986, crack was available in 28 states. Newsweek called the drug’s impact a “national crisis.”

Source:

-The Voice, http://www.villagevoice.com/news/cheaper-more-addictive-and-highly-profitable-how-crack-took-over-nyc-in-the-80s-6664480

You can be sure that this was by no accident. The media practically advertised crack cocaine. Crack destroyed the Black community like no other weapon could. I speak not from a Google search or a spectator of the news, I speak from experience. I watched the drug take over the minds and bodies of those close to me. As a 90s kid, with crack being born in the 80’s, by the time I was growing up it was at its peak and those addicted were completely strung out. You see, it was cheaper than other drugs. This meant that everyone, including parents became junkies. No, not just parents, children.

This created gangs, drug dealers, and naturally, much violence. Because the victims of crack are African American in the majority, almost all crimes are presumed to be related, in some way, to blacks in the inner cities with an emphasis on  males. So when a group of young men go to Central Park New York to hang out and witness numerous attacks that lead them to head home for curfew around the same time a young white woman (28yrs) is raped and beaten beyond recognition, it is no secret why police decide to bring these men in for questioning. Besides, it is a trend that has existed for centuries. Had this been 1929 instead of 1989, these men would not have had the “privilege” of an arrest, they would have just been hung from the nearest tree.

“Isa 42:22 But this is a people robbed and spoiled; they are all of them snared in holes, and they are hid in prison houses: they are for a prey, and none delivereth; for a spoil, and none saith, Restore.”

Falsely Convicted

On April 19, 1989, five young men, ages 14 – 16 were recorded on video confessing to attacking, raping, and almost killing Central Park jogger Trisha Meili. In two separate trials, five young men were coerced into video taped and written confessions that sent them to prison. Still, after the confession, all of the young men pleaded not guilty and claimed that their videotaped confessions were concocted by the cops.

The story of the crime, as told by the police and prosecutors, was that a group of young people, were “wilding” through Central Park and after harassing a few other people, eventually led to the beating and sexual assault of the woman jogger. The story quickly exploded into the public eye, and I am sure those of you older than me remember the story. Because of the taped confessions, the jury ruled the young men guilt in two separate trials in 1990. Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Raymond Santana, Yusef Salaam, and Korey Wise served sentences ranging from five to thirteen years.

Korey, the oldest of the group, got the most time and was still enduring his sentence when he got into a confrontation with a man named Matias Reyes at the prison where they were both serving sentences. The confrontation was over something simple but Reyes apology had a far deeper meaning. Korey, presuming it was because of their jailhouse brawl, dismissed the man’s apology.

On August 12, 2001, just months after the only DNA collected at the crime scene, which was never tied to any of the accused, was matched, Korey got out of prison. Matias Reyes had committed to the crime that sent these young men to prison. In 2002, one year later, the young men were exonerated. However, their innocence did not ring as loudly as their assumed guilt.

Adult Central Park 5
The Central Park Five as Adults

In 2012, a documentary was premiered of this case titled “The Central Park Five”. For those of you on Netflix, you should find it there. Otherwise, I highly recommend you activate your Google skills and find it. It is a story far too familiar and is well worth the watch.

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Black History Fun Fact Friday – Convict Leasing

 

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Welcome Back everyone to another episode of Black History Fun Fact Friday! Where we present movies, products, books, audio, or article Fun Facts on a portion of the History of African American people. We cover all things Archeological, Biblical, Historical, and most importantly, Factual. Today marks our 4th week into the series and we’d like to celebrate our month in with an excellent documentary on the history of convict leasing, but first, a little History:

Convicts_Leased_to_Harvest_Timber

According to the 13th Amendment:
“Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude,

except as punishment for crime

whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, nor any place subject to their jurisdiction.”

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Convict leasing began in Alabama in 1846 and is recorded as lasting until July 1, 1928, however our past and present prison population speak a different language. Today, more than 60% of the people in prison are African American. For Black males in their thirties, 1 in every 10 is in prison or jail on any given day. Take a class filled with black boys and 1 in 3 has a likelihood of ending up in prison. It has gotten so bad that prisons now calculate the percentage of beds needed for cells based on whether or not black boys can read by the 4th grade.

Convict labor working on railroad line

In 1883, about 10 percent of Alabama’s total revenue was derived from convict leasing. In 1898, nearly 73 percent of total revenue came from this same source. Death rates among leased convicts were approximately 10 times higher than the death rates of prisoners in non-lease states. In 1873, for example, 25 percent of all black leased convicts died.

While most believe that the 13th Amendment abolished slavery and involuntary servitude, a loophole was opened that resulted in the widespread continuation of slavery in America–slavery as punishment for a crime.

Narrated by Lawrence Fishburne, learn from Historians and Scholars how the south reconstructed its means of financial stability after the end of the Civil War and the Emancipation of slaves:

Slavery by Another Name:

In Case You Missed It:

Hair Story

Guest Feature – A Modern Day Slave Plantation Part 3 by Laura Dimon

*Note: This article was not written by The PBS Blog, it is featured as part of the continuation of an ongoing series and is written by Laura Dimon. This is the last part which includes my commentary. Please view our Guest Feature or Article Section for Parts 1 & 2*

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In King’s trials, the juries were all white, with one black person. This past March, Glenn Ford, 64, walked out of Angola a free man after 30 years on death row. He was Louisiana’s longest-serving death row prisoner, yet he’s just another black man who was convicted and sentenced by an all-white jury. King said Angola today still reminds him of a slave plantation, but not as much as it reminds him of a graveyard. “There seems to be an artificial sanitation that is disturbing to me,” he said. The land is “beautiful, whitewashed, looks like a college campus.” But underneath, “The bones are rottin’.”

 
Angola exists in the shadow of slavery, a time when black men did not have rights. In a state with the motto “Union, justice and confidence,” there is certainly a lingering stink of a bygone, ugly era for which “union and justice” is simply not a fitting description. The other two members of the Angola 3 are Albert Woodfox and Herman Wallace. There is overwhelming evidence of their innocence and accordingly, state and federal judges have overturned Woodfox’s conviction three times, citing racial discrimination, misconduct by the prosecution and inadequate defense. But Louisiana’s Attorney General James “Buddy” Caldwell holds the ultimate power, and has contested the rulings, claiming they were based on technicalities.

 

To this day, after 42 years, Woodfox remains in solitary confinement in Angola. He’s thought to be the longest-serving inmate in solitary. In the documentary film, he says, “If a cause is noble enough, you can carry the weight of the world on your shoulders. And I thought my cause, then and no, was noble. So therefore, they would never break me.”
They might bend me a little bit. They might cause me a lot of pain. They may even take my life. But they will never be able to break me.”

 
Wallace was released in October 2013 with advanced liver cancer. King went with Woodfox, who was permitted to leave briefly, to visit their friend and tell him he was out of Angola for good. “We told him,” King said. Wallace couldn’t move or respond. “[But] we saw it in his eyes. … He knew he was getting out.” Wallace took his last breaths a free man, after over 40 years. He died three days later.

 
King continues the fight for Woodfox. So when he is asked about his own release, he responds with this apt adage: “I was free of Angola, but Angola would not be free of me.”

 

Image Credits: AP, Peter Puna, Robert King

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angolaCommentary:

The disturbing reality, is that no so called African American should be surprised by this article. At some point we must realize that under the fine print of America’s democracy you were never intended to be citizens. Your stay here in this country was never received with the certificate of adoption and thus you were never granted the same rights of America’s children, and that is why such institutions such as the Angola Facility still exist in the first place. You have Civil Rights but you have no Human Rights. It is no surprise then, that the mental state of the African American people is worse today than it was during slavery. Even during the Civil Rights Era your state of consciousness was not like it is now; for Freedom Rides denoted an understanding that you were not free here and you understood that. But the worse thing about mental enslavement however is that if the mind thinks itself free it doesn’t really matter what happens to the body. You can continue to mistreat it and it will still not grasp the understanding that it remains confined. You can put it in a hog pen, lock it up inside the inner rooms, isolate it and because the mind has been warped it will still think it possesses some kind of freedom. In The Mis-Education of The Negro Carter G. Woodson said it best, “when you control a man’s thinking you do not have to worry about his actions. You do not have to tell him to stand here or go yonder. He will find his “proper place” and will stay in it. You do not need to send him to the back door, he will cut one for his special benefit. His education makes it necessary.

  • Prison institutions determine how many more beds to add to their facility, based on how many black boys can’t read by the 4th grade

 

  • According a recent Brookings Institution report, black men born in 1975 who dropped out of high school had a 70 percent chance of ending up in prison by their mid-thirties. The probability is actually greater for young black men who drop out today.

 

  • The bible prophecy’s of black men being hidden in prison houses and that their heavens will be bronze and their earth iron (Deut. 28:23, Lev. 26:19)

 

  • According to Prof. Michelle Alexander’s analysis of U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, there are now more black men in prison than were enslaved in 1850.

 

  • The so called African American was never included in the U.S. Constitution; his civil rights were amended or added on, this means they can also be removed

 

  • The 13th Amendment, when it abolished slavery, did so except for convicts. Through the prison system, the vestiges of slavery continue.

 

Guest Feature – A Modern Day Slave Plantation by Laura Dimon Part 2

*Note: This article was not written by The PBS Blog, it is featured as part of the continuation of an ongoing series and is written by Laura Dimon. Please view our Guest Feature or Article Section for Part 1*

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Angola_Prison_--_Leadbelly_in_the_foreground

In 1972, the prisoners were virtually all black. Merciless guards — all white men, called “freemen” — worked the inmates like slaves. Sugar cane was the main crop, King said. In the documentary film In the Land of the Free, it’s stated that the inmates labored all day every day for a measly $.02 per hour. The abuse didn’t stop there. As NPR reported, “There was a prisoner slave trade and rampant rape; inmates slept with J.C. Penney catalogs tied to their waists for protection.” King was one of three men who formed the famous Angola 3 group, leaders of the Black Panther Party’s Angola chapter. King said they were fighting for equality, but he later realized their efforts had been misaimed: “We were focused on civil rights, but we didn’t have human rights,” he said.

 

Prison Horses

In our most recent conversation, I asked King, “How’s it going?” “It’s … ongoing,” he replied. It’s easy to see why: Little has changed at Angola. It remains a time warp, a living, breathing relic of a shameful past. Of about 6,000 inmates currently in custody, roughly 70% are black and 30% are white. In October 2008, NPR reported, “In the distance on this day, 100 black men toil, bent over in the field, while a single white officer on a horse sits above them, a shotgun in his lap.” The context of this modern day slave plantation is unfortunately appropriate. Nola.com wrote that Louisiana is the world’s “prison capital,” with 1 in 86 residents serving time — nearly double the national average. The racial skew is extreme. One in 14 black men in New Orleans is behind bars; 1 in 7 is either in prison, on parole or on probation. Louisiana is “notorious for racial disparities in its justice systems,” Andrew Cohen wrote in the Atlantic.

 

One highly concerning aspect of Louisiana’s judicial scheme is that, unlike in 48 states, a unanimous jury decision is not required — only 10 jurors have to vote to convict someone, even for a life sentence. Oregon is the only other state with this system, but it doesn’t have the same tremendous racial component. Cohen wrote, “Prosecutors can comply with their constitutional obligations to permit blacks and other minority citizens to serve as jurors but then effectively nullify the votes of those jurors should they vote to acquit.” It is one of “the most obvious and destructive flaws in Louisiana’s broken justice system,” he wrote, arguing, plain and simple: “Louisiana is terribly wrong to defend a law that was born of white supremacy.”

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A Duke University study examined more than 700 non-capital felony criminal cases in Florida and found that, in cases with no blacks in the jury pool, blacks were convicted 81% of the time while whites were convicted 66% of the time. The researchers concluded that “the racial composition of the jury pool has a substantial impact on conviction rates” and that “the application of justice is highly uneven.”

 

Image Credits: AP, Peter Puna, Robert King, Google Images