Arts & Entertainment

SBU to Show Ken Burns' 'Central Park Five'

Sketch by Christine Cornell from the Central Park Five website

ST. BONAVENTURE, NY - St. Bonaventure University will present The Central Park Five, Ken Burns’ documentary about the wrongful conviction of five Harlem teenagers in what is known as the Central Park Jogger case, Monday at 6 p.m. in the auditorium of the William F. Walsh Science Center.

The screening is open to the public and is part of the university's #RaceMatters series. Dr. Rachel Ann Walsh, a visiting professor in the university's English department, and Christopher Brown, director of the First-Year Experience and Orientation programs, will be the presenters.

Walsh said that she hopes the film will educate students who may not be aware of the case so that a larger discussion can happen about “the framework of the documentary” and how the case relates to more recent events.

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“(This) case is suggestive of many of the problems that are only now being addressed within the dominant, public discourse,” Walsh said. “Activists and academics have been raising these concerns for generations (about) the mass incarceration of black and Latino subjects, the treatment of adolescent prisoners in notorious institutions like Riker's Island,” where Korey Wise, one of the teenagers in the case, was incarcerated, “(and) the enduring reading of black bodies as criminal and black lives as expendable.”

Brown explained the movie was selected “because the themes intersect” with both #RaceMatters and this academic year’s All Bonaventure Reads (ABR) program.

The ABR book for this academic year is Just Mercy by attorney Bryan Stevenson, who, Brown said, “showed how race, poverty and access to representation impacts wrongful convictions on a systemic level.”

He added, “Ken Burns’ documentary echoes similar themes. While retelling the story of a horrific crime, The Central Park Five powerfully shows yet another example of discrimination leading to a miscarriage of justice. It lends further evidence to Stevenson’s claim that fundamental reform to our criminal justice system is absolutely necessary.”

Brown said he believes students will connect the film to conversations about race and the criminal justice system that have already begun on campus.

“In addition to analyzing the effects of racial injustice in the criminal justice system, the documentary also explores how the media can fuel existing prejudices by repeating false narratives,” he said. “Understanding the impact of media coverage is crucial to understanding this case, and we have not yet thoroughly explored the relationship between the media, racial biases, and criminal justice in our previous programming related to the All Bona Reads text.”

For a list of all upcoming #RaceMatters events, visit the #RACEMATTERS page on the St. Bonaventure website.

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