The Central Park Five

GPEP-RAs-SP13I’ve been lucky this semester to teach in the Goucher Prison Education Program.  I’m not allowed to write about my experiences yet, as anything that I post has to be approved first by the Prison Information Officer.  But I can say out loud that this has been an amazing, life-changing, experience. I can also write about the amazing Central Park Five screening that took place at the prison on May 1.  Well, I can’t write about it except to say that it happened:  Sarah Burns and David McMahon (the producers/directors, along with Ken Burns, of the documentary)  screened The Central Park Five at the men’s prison in Jessup.  They brought along two members of the Central Park Five, Korey and Raymond, and spent two hours fielding questions from my students.  The only thing I can write about the experience is what was made public by the filmmakers after the event:  my  incarcerated students were insightful and thoughtful and brought up questions that had never been raised before during the hundreds of screenings.

I had dinner with Sarah, David, Korey and Raymond after the prison screening and before the Goucher College main campus screening.  They were gracious and down to earth, even though they’ve answered the same questions hundreds of times.  Korey and Raymond, the two members of the Central Park Five, received a standing ovation on the Goucher campus.  They were swarmed by well-wishers afterward.

Yet, as heartwarming as that event was, I realize that there’s still so much work to be done.  I was talking to my brother, an attorney,  the next day and trying to describe the profound nature of both events.  His first words were, “You don’t really think those guys are innocent, do you?”  In his defense, he had not seen the film.  After I finished yelling at him, I extracted a promise that he will watch the documentary and then talk to me.  But I hung up the phone with the weight of the work ahead of us.  Reaching people one-by-one will take time.  I hope everyone I know will watch the movie and get the word out.  Or yell at their brothers.  I think watching the movie is more effective.