By Julie Ngalle
When They See Us – Netflix
This Netflix mini-series narrates the story of the “Central Park Five” case that made the headlines in the 90s. Four African-American and one Latino-American teenagers – 16-year-old Korey Wise, 15-year-old Antron McCray and Yusef Salaam, and 14-year-old Raymond Santana and Kevin Richardson – were wrongfully convicted for the physical and sexual assault that almost killed a young white woman in Central Park. They were all sentenced to between 5 and 15 years of prison despite all evidence against them being debunked during the two trials that took place. 12 years later, the real murderer confessed to the crime and the innocence of the men now known as “the exonerated five” was finally proven. The Netflix show retraces their stories from the day before they were arrested to the day they were finally free again, tackling their trials and time in prison in detail. The mini-series exposes the institutionalised racism of the American criminal justice system, which vilifies young black men and inflicts irreparable damage upon their communities.
This is also available on Netflix and is a documentary directed by Ava Duvernay, who also directed When They See Us. Its title is a reference to the 13th amendment to the American Constitution that freed Black Americans from slavery in 1865. The documentary tackles the links between race, justice, and mass incarceration in the US as “scholars, activists and politicians [notably] analyze the criminalisation of African-Americans.” It serves to show that despite this amendment to the Constitution, African-Americans are far from having the same privileges, freedom and fair treatment as their white counterparts.
I am not your Negro
This movie takes inspiration from James Baldwin’s last unfinished production “Remember This House”, where the author reflects on the state of African-American rights and remembers civil rights leaders Malcolm X, Medgar Evers and Martin Luther King, Jr. The movie, narrated by Samuel. L Jackson, explores the social and political battles of the African-American community over the decades, as well as the little progress made and the major problems persisting with race relations in American society.
Dear White People – Netflix
Another Netflix show, fictional this time. Tackling topics from white privilege to passive racism that almost every person of colour experiences no matter their background and own privilege, Dear White People shows that racism STILL very much exists. Consider it a guide on how to approach, talk to and behave around someone with a different ethnic or cultural background than yourself without offending or stereotyping them and their heritage. Set in a fictional Ivy-league university, the protagonist runs a radio show called ‘Dear White People’ aimed at denouncing the racist culture and behaviours of the school. As she shares testimonies and grievances from the university’s black community, she hopes to bring together all cultures and put discriminatory practices against non-white communities to an end.
12 Years A Slave
This 2013 movie is a “biographical period-drama film” and adaptation of Solomon Northup’s 1853 memoir of the same name. Northup was a free African-American New Yorker who was kidnapped in 1841 and sold into slavery where he worked in crops in Louisiana for 12 years. The movie shows not only the hardship that comes with free labour but also the treatment reserved for these slaves who were barely treated as humans and tortured, insulted and shamed on a daily basis.
Note: Just like with the funds, although we wish we could link every piece ever written, every show or film ever released, we cannot. However, I was sent a Google sheet document initially put together by Vamika Sinha, a student at New York University Abu Dhabi. I have made it a document accessible to all and added a few recommendations of mine. You can click the link below to check it out for yourselves, and as it is an open-access spreadsheet, feel free to share it around you and add any recommendations you may have. There will never be too much information.